Initial polls indicate Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson would not significantly hurt Donald Trump in the general election because he draws votes from both major parties equally.
The former New Mexico governor was nominated again Sunday at the Libertarian Party convention in Orlando, after previously winning a little bit less than one percent of the popular vote in 2012. This time, Johnson is on the ticket with running mate Bill Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts.
Politico is trumpeting Johnson as a vote-spoiler who could doom Trump against Hillary Clinton. Libertarian power brokers are excited about the chance to perhaps get 5 percent of the popular vote nationally and get the party on the ballot nationwide in future elections. A Johnson campaign source said that billionaire David Koch – who along with his brother is pulling money out of the pro-Republican cause in protest of Trump – will give money to Johnson, though Johnson publicly claimed to have no knowledge of such an arrangement.
“Do the math: Ten percent in the polls — that’s 90 percent in reverse, a landslide practically. It’s inevitable. Everybody who gets paid by the Kochs says so,” longtime Libertarian insider Tim Cavanaugh said mockingly on Facebook.
But Johnson appears to be drawing evenly from both Republicans and Democrats, and Trump is still winning independents even after Johnson takes his third-place share.
The most recent Morning Consult poll, conducted between May 19-23, shows Johnson getting 10 percent of the vote. Clinton leads Trump in that poll 38 to 35, with 17 percent undecided. At first glance, it seems that Johnson is hurting Trump in the poll.
But Johnson is only getting 6 percent of Republicans in the poll, compared to 7 percent of Democrats, meaning that Bernie Sanders supporters might cancel out the #NeverTrump Republicans going to Johnson.
Johnson gets 18 percent of independents in that poll, but Trump still leads Clinton among independents 37 to 19, with 26 percent undecided.
In the most recent Fox News poll, Johnson is getting 10 percent of the vote, but that’s not enough to knock Trump out of the lead nationally.
That poll, released May 18, shows Trump beating Clinton by three points, 45 percent to 42 percent, in a two-way race without Johnson.
In a three-way race, Johnson grabs 10 percent but Trump still leads Clinton by the exact same three-point margin, 42 percent to 39 percent. Johnson steals three points equally from Trump and Clinton.
The libertarian movement became popularly associated with right-wing politics during the ascendancy of Ron Paul, who galvanized right-leaning voters in his 2008 and 2012 Republican Party primary runs. But the libertarian movement has since shifted Left in many respects, as evidenced by this cycle’s “Libertarians For Bernie” movement.
The pro-amnesty, pro-open borders cause has gained prominence in libertarian circles, as exemplified by the “libertarian” Niskanen Center think tank’s dogged advocacy to bring in the Syrian refugees. Trump opposes that.
Pew Research Center found in 2014 that 11 percent of Americans identify as libertarians and also know what that means.
Johnson may not be the only recognizable small-party candidate in the race. Neoconservative power broker Bill Kristol – a man ideologically opposed to libertarianism but who shares a common anti-Trump sentiment – announced Sunday that an independent challenger will enter the general election race.