Gary Johnson has lingered in polls taken in October as Election Day draws ever closer, but the Libertarian Party could have an opportunity to make some major gains in the wake of the scandal that is sinking Donald Trump’s campaign.
For third party candidates, the final stretch of the presidential race has always been the most difficult. While many of them can poll high in the summer months, sometimes even reaching double digits, this standing traditionally fades as fall approaches and most candidates end up gravitating toward the major parties.
That appeared to be the case with Gary Johnson, who on September 14 peaked at 9.2 percent support in Real Clear Politics polling aggregates and since then has steadily declined. He stood at 6.5 percent support on October 9.
But after Friday’s scandal that rocked the political world and sent the Trump campaign into what seems to be a death spiral, it does not appear that this will be like any other year. Though Trump has gotten into trouble continually for his shoot-from-the-hip style, this scandal looks to be much more damaging.
Just before 5 p.m. on Friday, the Washington Post published an audio tape recorded in 2005 that showed Donald Trump and Access Hollywood host Billy Bush engaged in some lewd banter. Trump could be heard describing his aggressive pursuit of women in a conversation that took place just months after his wedding to Melania.
“I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab them by the p***y. You can do anything.”
The scandal led scores of Republicans to denounce Trump, and could have created an opportunity for Gary Johnson to make major gains in the polls. The Libertarian Party candidate was quick to seize on the controversy, making his pitch to disenchanted Republicans.
“Today, as we watch Republicans across the nation struggle with the disclosure of Donald Trump’s indefensible and embarrassing words, and the attitude toward women displayed by those words, we respect the difficult spot those Republicans are in. It can’t be easy,” Johnson and running mate Bill Weld said in a statement (via Politico). “Today, we would like to reach across party lines to invite our Republican friends to join our campaign. There is a presidential ticket with two candidates who served honorably and effectively as Republican Governors, and we are it.”
There are already some Republicans defecting directly to Gary Johnson. The candidate told Action 7 News in Albuquerque that he has heard from a number of GOP officials who have pledged their support.
“It’s such a massive amount that the campaign can’t even begin to deal with it at the moment,” Johnson said. “They’re wanting to know how they can lend their support, and what’s the best way they can communicate their support because they’re done.”
With just over four weeks left until Election Day, Gary Johnson hopes to capitalize on the scandal further and move up in the polls. His campaign told Action 7 News that Johnson plans to spend his time in the states where he has the best chance of pulling a large share of voters, which includes New Mexico, where he served as governor.
If Gary Johnson can climb in the polls, the next week could be the turning point. Polls showing the state of the race after the release of the Trump Tapes will start to come out early this week, and if Johnson can make any significant jumps it would start to show up there.
[Featured Image by Rick Bowmer/AP Images]