Gary Johnson is seeing a huge boost in the polls, with new numbers showing that the Libertarian Party candidate is surging in the Central Plains and could be moving past Democrat Hillary Clinton in these traditionally red states.
Normally, October is the drop-off period for third parties in presidential elections. While voters often support the Green and Libertarian Parties in the high single digits and even low double digits throughout the summer and early fall, as Election Day draws closer, most of them end up falling back in line with the major parties. As a result, third parties have traditionally underperformed their polling on Election Day.
That may not be the case this year, and new polling suggests that Gary Johnson’s support is growing as it nears Election Day. One bit of evidence comes from polling conducted by George Washington University and released on Monday.
The George Washington University Battleground Poll showed that Johnson has support at 21 percent in the Central Plains states, most of which have traditionally gone to Republicans. Hillary Clinton’s support in this region of the country was at 26 percent.
The numbers are seen as a boost to Gary Johnson and his supporters, but they come with some caveats. For one, the sample size for these states is small, making the margin of error very high. The George Washington University Battleground Poll also found a bigger challenge for Johnson on a national level, with his support actually falling down to 8 percent.
And many Gary Johnson voters still aren’t confident with his chances of pulling off the biggest upset in the history of American politics and winning the presidency.
“Almost nine out of 10 respondents (89 percent) who will vote for Clinton believe the former secretary of state will win. Sixty percent of Trump supporters think he will win, while more than a quarter (27 percent) of the businessman’s backers believe Clinton will win instead. Most third-party supporters believe Clinton will win (Johnson voters: 72 percent; Stein voters: 64).”
Gary Johnson has remained aggressive in courting voters, including those who would not traditionally fall in the Libertarian Party camp. He recently reached out to former Bernie Sanders supporters, trying to sell them on the common interests.
“He opposed the wars they oppose, just as I do — the same wars Hillary Clinton supported and sent us into,” he said (via the Washington Post). “Senator Sanders is one of the few politicians who tells the truth about the war on drugs. … Hillary? She is against legalization. The poll numbers are just not high enough for her, I guess.”
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) October 13, 2016
The appeal to Sanders voters came just after — and likely in response to — the Vermont Senator taking a vocal stance against Johnson. As Bernie Sanders has been more active in campaigning for Hillary Clinton, he has also come out strongly against attempts by third parties to court his enthusiastic base of supporters.
“On the basic economic issues – trade, minimum wage, climate change, pay equity – Gary Johnson’s positions are disastrous,” Sanders tweeted on Sunday.
There could be other setbacks for Johnson, including failing to qualify for the third and final presidential debate.
Gary Johnson doesn't qualify for final 2016 presidential debatehttps://t.co/GapbxIueKD
— Daniel Strauss (@DanielStrauss4) October 14, 2016
The next few weeks will be the most important period for Gary Johnson. If his poll numbers can continue to rise, there is a chance the Libertarian Party candidate could top double digits nationally and even have an outside chance of finishing in second place in a number of states. But if they begin to drop back to lower single digits, it could be a sign that this year isn’t that unusual and the traditional third-party retreat near Election Day will continue regardless of how unpopular the major party candidates might be.
[Featured Image by George Frey/AP Images]