The Gary Johnson Effect

Joe Trippi, a long-time Democratic campaign operative, argues that Gary Johnson—former Republican governor of New Mexico and current Libertarian Party nominee—could have an outsized influence on the presidential election:

[R]emember that Ralph Nader didn’t crack 3% of the popular vote in 2000 – yet he completely changed the outcome of that race.

Gary Johnson, meanwhile, is currently polling at 5.3% in the latest Zogby national poll. […]

Johnson could make a major dent in the general election – because he is currently doing better than most people realize in several key swing states.

Most pollsters don’t even include Gary Johnson in their polling. But recent polling that included him showed Johnson drawing 9% of the vote in Arizona, 7% in Colorado and New Hampshire – and 13% in his home state of New Mexico

Trippi suggests otherwise, but if Gary Johnson were to make a Nader-like performance in this year’s election, odds are best that he would cost Mitt Romney the election. Remember, the Republican Party is still incredibly unpopular, and Romney wins a significant portion of his support from people who oppose President Obama. It’s almost certainly the case that Romney’s coalition includes a critical number of anti-Obama, anti-GOP voters. If Johnson were to peel some of those voters away, especially in swing states like Ohio and Florida—which have a substantial number of undecided voters—then he would raise Romney’s ceiling for victory. It wouldn’t guarantee a loss, but it would make a win more difficult.

Of course, it’s still too early to say if Johnson will have any kind of an impact. Regardless, it would behoove the Romney campaign to pay attention to his performance, and perhaps begin to appeal to his supporters.


I think this is nothing more than the "I-hate-Obama-AND-Romney" crowd weighing in. They could never vote for Obama, but are by and large right-wing enough that Romney is not quite satisfying as a choice. This isn't a new phenomenon.

But in the end, historically, either those people have been deciding not to vote at all, or have held their nose and voted for a major party candidate, likely to be Romney in this election. I don't think Romney has to do much to get these votes except for not tear open his shirt to reveal a big red "D" and admit that he's secretly a liberal Democrat planning to raise top marginal rates to 91%, push through a single payer health care system, and make gay marriage not just legal, but required.

And even then he'd get some of them who think, "Well, at least he was born here!"

(I'm so depressed by the state of this election I could just puke.)

Let's see Gary Johnson is anti patriot act, anti war without congress okay, anti NDAA, anti fed, anti debt, and Pro gay marriage, Pro constitution, Pro small government, Pro living in means. Maybe he is the right candidate for the job, and he has a proven track record as Governor of New Mexico

Maybe the people are catching on to the games that the Republicrats play, Maybe there is no difference between Obama and Romney.

I know that in November I will NOT hold my nose I will be going to the election polls and hold my both middle fingers to both parties and VOTING LIBERTARIAN because I Live Free!

The premise of this piece is that if you participate in the election, but do not support the Republican or the Democrat, then you are somehow illegitimate.

Why do supposedly enlightened publications like the Prospect repeat this sort of BS without defending or even acknowledging their underlying premise?

All citizens have an equal right to participate in the electoral process. And they do not become illegitimate simply because they choose not to support the two major parties. Anyone who says otherwise is attempting to relegate everyone but Republicans and Democrats to the status of second class citizens. So let's recognize the term "spoiler" for what it is: political bigotry.

Let's be real Gary Johnson is not going to be the next president . That does not mean I am not going to vote for him. He is the the only sane man that will be on all 50 states ballot. I hope he does play spoiler to the Nazi Republican Party. May that will wake up the Republican party, because how they treated Ron Paul and his supporters is a damn sin. And the way the Republicans and Democrats treat the Constitution is plain evil.

I rather have a Libertarian President now but I know that will not happen so the second best option is 4 more years of tyranny than a possible 8 with Romney!


I am not a fan of former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson. So he 's right about the drug wars. Great. I hope his participation will focus attention on the issue but he is wrong on just about everything else.

He is most especially wrong on the privatization of prisons. During his governorship, New Mexico became the state with the largest percentage of inmates in privately run prisons. The Land of Enchantment is the only state where over half the prison population is held in privately-owned and run prisons. To be fair to Johnson, when he left office only 44 percent of the prison population was held in the two private prisons built during his governorship.

But by the end of his second term, New Mexico's private prisons had one of the worst safety records and the worst compliance record in getting prisoners to their scheduled hearings within the justice system anywhere in the country. Prisoners were denied timely meetings with their attorneys, they were never brought to appear before parole boards, five prisoners were killed in one year.

And Johnson also introduced mandatory sentencing laws so that under his tenure, the prison population grew just under 20 percent. Still, New Mexico’s prison population was only 4,945 in 1998, the year before Johnson left office. In the decade that followed, however, New Mexico's prison population expanded by 38 percent while the overall rate prisoners held in state prisons for the nation as a whole over that time frame is 13 percent. For the industrial-prison complex, New Mexico is truly a Land of Enchantment.

I think the Democrats and Republicans don’t want Gov. Johnson to join the debates because he offers such clear, sensible solutions namely the legalization of marijuana. The more the general public know about Gov. Johnson, the more they like him. Gov. Johnson will shake up this election by pulling votes away from both Obama and Romney. He's got my vote.

Gary Johnson believes in personal freedom. Neither Obama or Romney do. Libertarians do have solutions for our problems. Neither the Democratic Party or the Republican Party does. Obama offers "Obamacare". Libertarians offer much more. No prescription laws mean you have the legal right to take care of your own health without having to pay a doctor for "permission" to purchase medical drugs. Licensing is replaced with certification. There are multiple tiers of medical providers so you have a choice of whom you want to assist you in maintaining your health. Multiple tiers of hospitals mean you pay only for the services you actually use. Tort reform eliminates the excesses for which lawyers are infamous for. You won't need a vet's prescription to buy heart worm pills for your dog or cat. Instead of contributing to Social Security and Medicare (which are merely transfer programs), you will be able to invest the money now being collected in payroll tax in safe and relatively secure investments that will double in value every decade (Vanguard has two bond index funds that do exactly that and have done so for the past decade including the "crash" from which we are still recovering). An end to American Imperialism will allow reduction of the defense budget to a level about a third of what we spend today. This means much lower taxes than what we're paying now. The level of personal freedom will be far greater in a Libertarian society than it is now. Far greater. Much lower cost of living too once we get "government" off our backs. Does this all sound good? I've been a member of the Libertarian Party since 1983. If you want to learn more, I suggest "Healing Our World" by Doctor Mary J. Ruwart. Try your local public library or Google for her free "e-book". You'll be convinced as I have been that Libertarians "do have the answer we need"!

There is much to respect about Libertarian politics and Gary Johnson. According to the survey I took at, I admire even more about Green candidate Jill Stein, too. Unfortunately, one of the two major party candidates is going to win, and the choice between the two is stark enough I'm going to have to give my vote to Barack Obama.

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