Gary Johnson: Spoiler?
The Libertarian Party's Presidential candidate could prove decisive in determining who wins the Electoral College.
The new CNN/ORC poll finds at least some evidence that Libertarian Party Presidential candidate Gary Johnson could have a spoiler effect in an election that remains very close:
Washington (CNN) - Gary Johnson’s poll numbers may not give him much-of-a shot at winning the presidency, but in the latest CNN/ORC Poll, he is registering enough of a following to possibly tip the balance in an increasingly close election.
Three percent of likely voters responded that they would vote for Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s candidate for president, in November. That number is slightly higher among registered voters, with 4% identifying with the former governor of New Mexico.
The poll also finds that Johnson’s inclusion, along with the Green Party’s candidate Jill Stein, hurts Republican candidate Mitt Romney more than it does President Barack Obama.
Obama leads Romney 52% to 46% when Romney and Obama are the only candidates in question, but Romney’s support goes down three percentage points with the inclusion of the third party candidates. Obama’s support only drops one point.
“The inclusion of the two minor-party candidates turns a six-point margin for President Obama into an eight-point lead,” said Keating Holland, CNN’s Polling Director. Since third party candidates are typically not on the ballot in all 50 states, those numbers can be slight deceiving when relating them to the support the candidates will receive on Election Day.
The Johnson campaign says they don’t see their candidacy as a Republican spoiler and argues that the Johnson’s appeal is more important when looked at on a state-by-state.
“Generally, in places like Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada,” said Joe Hunter, Johnson campaign spokesperson, “it appears that Governor Johnson’s appeal comes from folks that supported Obama in 2008 and are now disillusioned with the president.”
He continued: “Who cares if Johnson takes votes from Romney in California?”
Johnson is running a largely outsiders campaign and has actively been looking to pull votes from the Romney and Obama base. In the last two weeks, he attended rallies in both Tampa, Florida – the site of the Republican National Convention – and Charlotte, North Carolina – the site of the Democrats convention.
The campaign has also put a great deal of focus on courting former Ron Paul supporters since the ardently supported libertarian stopped his campaign for the Republican nomination. Johnson spoke at a Paul rally in Tampa and Hunter argues that they are making in roads among the typically loyal Paul supporters.
There is at least some support for the Johnson’s campaign’s argument that they don’t draw exclusively from Republicans when you look at the state-level polls. In New Mexico, where Johnson served as Governor for eight years and where he garners his highest name recognition and likability ratings, a recent PPP Poll [PDF] showed the race at Obama 49% – Romney 44% when only the two major party candidates are included. When Johnson’s name is added to the mix, here’s what it looks like:
- Obama – 42%
- Romney – 38%
- Johnson 13%
To a large degree, it appears that Johnson draws nearly equally from both Romney and Obama here, with slightly more Democratic-inclined voters jumping to Johnson if he’s included in the ballot. Of course, the views may be skewed here by the fact that Johnson was Governor of the state. One finds similar results in a recent poll by the Albuquerque Journal. Heading north to Colorado, we find another PPP Poll that shows the race at Obama 49% – Romney 46% if only the two are included in the poll, and Obama 46% – Romney 44% – Johnson 5%. Again, here it seems as though Johnson is drawing equally from both Obama and Romney, and I’d expect that you’d see the same thing in other swing states such as Virginia.
Of the two states, Colorado is quite obviously the one that could have a real impact on the race. The days of New Mexico being a real swing state seem to be gone, at least for now. If Johnson performs well enough in Colorado, though, to keep Romney from winning there, than that’s 9 Electoral Votes that are out of reach for him, which could be significant in a year where the election is likely to be very close. Johnson will be on the ballot in at least 47 states in November. In three states — Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma — his presence on the ballot is being challenged by the respective state Republican Party which, in and of itself, should probably tell you something.