Johnson the Libertarian could impact prez race
Former N.M. Gov. Gary Johnson is set to switch parties and run for president as a libertarian; if recent polling is any indication, he could have a significant impact in New Mexico and nationally.
Johnson plans a news conference in Santa Fe on Dec. 28, according to his Facebook page, to announce something that isn’t specified. Politico is reporting that Johnson will announce at that event that he’s seeking the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president.
“The move has been expected for weeks — Johnson had run a New Hampshire-centric effort that never got him past a blip in the polls. He appeared at only two nationally televised debates, and only one in which other major candidates took part.
“Johnson expressed deep disillusionment with the process as his libertarian message failed to catch fire and he received almost no attention for his bid. He soon began flirting with the Libertarians when it became clear that he was gaining no traction in GOP primaries.”
Polling shows Johnson would be a factor
Johnson said nearly a month ago that he was considering the switch. Recent polling suggests it might be a good move for him, and bad for Republicans. This week’s national Public Policy Polling survey (I know, I know… you can read about the debate over PPP’s work here) found close races between President Barack Obama and potential Republican candidates. Obama led most by a few points, but Mitt Romney led Obama 47 percent to 45 percent.
Put Johnson in the mix as a third-party candidate and he had the support of 9 percent of those surveyed – and tipped the race to Obama, who led Romney 43 percent to 41 percent.
In New Mexico – an important swing state that’s going to get lots of attention next year – Johnson took even more voters from the GOP, according to PPP. In a potential three-way matchup with Obama and Romney, Johnson had 23 percent to Romney’s 27 percent and Obama’s 44 percent. Replace Romney with Newt Gingrich and, in New Mexico, it was 20 percent for Johnson to Gingrich’s 28 percent and Obama’s 45 percent.
What I haven’t seen is polling on what would happen nationally or in New Mexico if the candidates were Obama, libertarian-leaning Republican Ron Paul (who suddenly has a shot at the GOP nomination), and Johnson.
But what is clear, according to PPP, is that Johnson hurts Republicans. From PPP’s national poll’s memo:
“We find that pretty much all of the big names who have been mentioned for potential independent bids would take a lot more voters from Romney than Obama.”
‘People want a third party. Until they don’t.’
Is 2012 the right year for a third-party candidate? Maybe. Maybe not.
The Washington Post blog The Fix has good analysis in an article headlined ‘People want a third party. Until they don’t:’
“One look at the deep dissatisfaction coursing through the American electorate — record disapproval numbers for Congress, President Obama at the lowest ebb of his time in office — and it becomes clear that a desire for something/someone else in politics is as strong as it’s been since, at least, 1992.
“One in three people said the two party system is ‘seriously broken’ and the country needs a third party in a late August NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. In an April 2011 Gallup poll, 52 percent of respondents said that the two parties do such a poor job that a third party is necessary.
“Couple those numbers with the dissatisfaction with President Obama among the Democratic base, the ongoing — and seemingly endless — search for new candidates in the Republican presidential field and efforts made by outside groups to win ballot access for a third party candidate in 2012 and it seems like a no-brainer for someone to leap at the opportunity.
“But, no one has. Why not?
“Largely because while the idea of a third party candidate is appealing in theory, it’s far less viable in practice.”
Here’s why, from The Fix:
“Inherent in the disparity between the number of people who like the idea of a third party and those who would vote for a third party candidate is that we, as human beings, like winners. Or we at least like the idea that our vote matters.
“Unless and until a third party candidate can prove that he/she is a genuine contender and not simply a spoiler — ala Ralph Nader in 2000 — no one but pure one-issue voters (or those deeply disenchanted with the two party system) will be willing to, in effect, throw away their vote.”
First, Johnson must win the nomination
Can Johnson change that? Time will tell. In the meantime, he has a Libertarian nomination to fight for. From Politico:
“Now, Johnson will seek the Libertarian nod at the party’s national convention in Las Vegas in May. Party officials said last month that they are holding out hope that Paul and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura would contend for their nomination, though Paul is now the GOP front-runner in Iowa and Ventura is vacationing at his home in Mexico, where he does not have a telephone or an Internet connection.
“Libertarians, who were on the ballot in 45 states, are aiming to be on the ballot in all 50 for 2012. One problem Johnson could face is so called ‘sore loser’ laws that will keep him from appearing as a third party candidate next November because he’s already on the GOP primary ballots in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan and Missouri.”
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