Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson may be the forgotten man of the campaign, but he has the potential to cost Mitt Romney the election.
Johnson, a pro-legal marijuana, pro abortion fiscal hawk, will not get anywhere near the support Ross Perot got in the 1992 race. Perot captured 19% of the vote, and some historians believe cost George Bush the election (exit polls showed he drew support evenly from both candidates.). But in a race this close, even just a 2-3% level of support for Johnson could tip the race in that state. In recent years, Libertarians have drawn the majority of their votes from Republicans, and there are a couple of states where Johnson may steal enough votes from Romney to hand Obama a victory.
Johnson relishes his spoiler role:
“I hope to rain on the party. And by that I mean the two parties,” Johnson, a former New Mexico governor, told The Associated Press on Saturday as he wrapped up his late swing through battleground Ohio after a college-town push in Colorado. “I hope to rain on it big time.”
Some polls have shown Johnson and former Virginia Rep. Goode, two not-long-ago Republicans, as primed to pull down more votes than the difference between President Barack Obama and Romney in critical states such as Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia. Experts caution, however, that the overall tightness of the race tends to work against third-party candidates in the end as voters migrate back to the main nominees.
Where Johnson may make the most difference is in Nevada.
Democrats say Mr. Johnson could have the biggest effect on Mr. Romney in Nevada, where a Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist poll in September showed Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney effectively tied.
Mr. Stone said the campaign believed it had the potential to cut into support for Mr. Romney in three of his must-win states, Florida, Ohio and Virginia — where challenges to the Libertarian candidate quickly failed — as well as in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Wisconsin and Montana are two more states where Johnson will poll well. Although Montana appears safe for Romney, Wisconsin may be a squeaker. Might Johnson cost Romney the Badger State’s 10 electoral votes? Some observers believe it is possible.
Obviously, the danger in Ohio and Virginia to Romney is real. In Virginia, in addition to Johnson, former congressman Virgil Goode is running on the Constitution Party ticket. Goode has very good name recognition in Virginia and who knows how many votes he’ll pull from the Republican.
Johnson, not surprisingly, thinks that the two party system is killing democracy:
In Tuesday’s election, the sizable portion of the American electorate that believes the time is past when our troops should have been brought home from Afghanistan doesn’t have a “major-party” candidate who agrees with them. The millions who believe government is far too large and intrusive will be looking at major-party options that both support the Patriot Act and a National Defense Authorization Act, which inexplicably legalizes the indefinite detention of American citizens. And for those who care deeply about marriage equality, they won’t see a major-party candidate who believes marriage discrimination violates basic constitutional rights.
On the most compelling issue of all in these difficult times, the economy, what do the two major parties offer? Vague assurances that they will balance the budget someday, years or even decades from now, quibbling over minor adjustments to a fundamentally flawed and corrupt tax system. And neither offers any real commitment to challenge monetary policies that are devaluing our currency by the day.
Where is the choice on election day for a candidate who will balance the budget now and propose the first substantial reform of the entire tax code in decades – scrapping taxes on income and replacing them with a single consumption tax that will create millions of jobs?
Giving the American people these choices is what my campaign for president is all about. Of our $16tn debt, almost equal amounts have been racked up under Republicans and Democrats. Our chronic involvement in costly and unnecessary wars has come through a progression of major-party administrations that seem to have little or no disagreements on foreign policy. Likewise, the truly alarming erosion of our civil liberties by the federal government has been an entirely bipartisan effort.
Americans deserve the opportunity to vote for a third choice: a candidate who is neither a product nor a proponent of a status quo that is clearly not working. My candidacy, the thousands of volunteer hours spent overcoming obstacles to ballot access, and the determination of our campaign to “crash the party” are all driven by the desire and, I believe, the imperative to break the two-party stranglehold.
It is the nature of an insurgency to overturn the established order. It would be nice if Johnson didn’t become the Republican Ralph Nader and draw off enough support from Mitt Romney to give the president a second term.