Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson didn't have much luck in the Republican presidential race — rarely registering as more than an asterisk in the polls, and failing to qualify for nearly every debate — but he's done better since his December decision to jump over to the Libertarian Party. On Saturday, Johnson won the Libertarians' presidential nomination with 74 percent of the vote at the party's convention in Las Vegas. Now, the pro-gun, pro-gay-marriage Johnson will be making a direct appeal to the independents who will decide the race between President Obama and Mitt Romney. Could he win enough protest votes to tip the election?
Johnson may derail Mitt: "Johnson has almost zero chance of winning the race," says Heath Haussaman at New Mexico Politics, but he might well win enough votes to play the role of spoiler, just as Ralph Nader did in 2000. And this time around, the third-party candidate is bad news for the Republican Romney. Although liberals find Johnson somewhat appealing, he's more likely to siphon away fiscal conservatives in the libertarian wing of the GOP now that he's running as a Libertarian.
"Gary Johnson plays the role of spoiler"
Actually, he'll hurt Obama more than Romney: Johnson has been polling as high as 9 percent nationally, says Michael Ames at The Daily Beast, which is enough to cover most Obama-Romney spreads. If his support holds, or grows, the question "won't be if he alters the November outcome, but how." Johnson "outflanks President Obama from the left" on civil liberties, drug laws, and war, so he might actually put Romney over the top.
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Regardless, he'll be refreshing: Johnson hopes to reach 15 percent in the polls, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway, which would let him participate in the presidential debates. That's "an incredibly high bar," especially given that no Libertarian candidate has ever collected more than 1 percent on election day. Still, Johnson will be a welcome change for voters "dissatisfied with both candidates on issues like the drug war and same-sex marriage." Really, it will be nice to see someone finally "getting real attention for a campaign of ideas."
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