Gary Johnson has continued to rise in the polls, and as he eyes the 15 percent marker needed to be included in debates, the Libertarian Party’s candidate is making a major play at GOP voters to do it.
Johnson has already taken the Libertarian Party from a fringe party that has struggled to receive even 1 percent in past elections to one that could play a major role in 2016. That comes in large part because of the experience on the ticket, with both Johnson and running mate Bill Weld serving as governors. But the rise has also been due to a large number of Republican voters unhappy with Donald Trump as their nominee who are now seeking a more palatable alternative.
Johnson has his eye on 15 percent, which is the mark set be the bipartisan controlled Commission on Presidential Debates to be included in the three debates this fall. The polls included are ABC/Washington Post, NBC/Wall Street Journal, CBS/New York Times, CNN, and Fox News, and in the last week Johnson hovered around 11 percent support in those polls, the Washington Post noted.
With more room to grow in the polls before being included in debates, Gary Johnson is trying to pull over more of those discontent Republicans. In an interview with CNBC, Johnson said he believes Trump does not represent the majority of voters within the Republican Party, saying his small government stances would be a much better fit for these voters.
“I think it’s me right now,” he said. “It’s the Libertarian Party. It’s a big six-lane highway down the middle that Bill Weld and myself are occupying.”
Johnson has also appealed to the large swatch of Republican voters turned off by Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration.
“Thirty percent of Republicans believe the scourge of the Earth is Mexican immigration. What’s the reason for why I don’t have a job? Well, make, make Mexican immigration the scapegoat for that. I understand why there’s that sentiment. And there’s a logic to the fact that they’re coming over. They’re taking our jobs. They’re taking, you know, they’re siphoning off our welfare system. When the reality is anything but. They are not taking jobs that U.S. citizens want. They’re the cream of the crop when it comes to workers. And they are contributing to the economy.”
Johnson is topping Trump in other areas, including a survey of U.S. business economists polled by the Wall Street Journal. He and Weld have also spoken to former Republican nominee Mitt Romney for a potential endorsement, though Romney is yet to publicly back the Libertarian ticket.
Gary Johnson has also won a large share of millennial voters, thanks in no small part to his plan to de-schedule marijuana as a class one narcotic, which would not only open up legalization but also allow for more research and development on its medicinal aspects.
“Marijuana products medicinally compete with legal prescription drugs that statistically kill 100,000 people a year. There’s not been one documented death due to marijuana,” he told CNBC. “Then on the recreational side, I’ve always maintained that legalizing marijuana will lead to [lower] overall substance abuse because people will find it as such a safer alternative than everything else that’s out there, starting with alcohol.”
That has already helped Gary Johnson in one of the most marijuana-friendly states, Colorado. A new Quinnipiac poll showed that Johnson is up 11 points on Donald Trump among voters aged 18-34 in the state, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2012.
While he still has some work to do in the polls before reaching 15 percent, Gary Johnson thinks that inclusion in debates would be a giant boost for his campaign. When asked by CNBC what could happen if the Libertarian Party has a chance to be on stage with the Democratic and Republican candidates, Johnson answered, “We could win.”
[Photo by George Frey/Getty Images]