Bill Owens: Libertarians On The Rise
The selection on May 29, 2016 of Governor Gary Johnson and Governor Bill Weld as the presidential and vice presidential candidates for the Libertarian party provides yet another twist in this unusual election year.
National polls that include Mr. Johnson as an option for president show him polling at roughly 10 percent. Many polls that do not include Mr. Johnson show Mr. Trump and former Secretary Clinton in a head-to-head race. However, a Quinnipiac University poll on June 1, 2016, has Clinton ahead of Trump by four points (45 to 41); any diminution in support for either of them could have a dramatic impact on the outcome of the November election. Another Quinnipiac poll on June 1 shows Clinton at 40, Trump at 38, Johnson at five and Stein at three. Both polls show the undecideds at 12 to 14 percent.
Clearly, it is a bit early in the race, and candidates get a huge boost when they are chosen as their party’s nominee, as reflected by Mr. Trump’s poll numbers, and potentially also for Mr. Johnson. The fight among the Democrats continues, as Senator Sanders pursues his quixotic quest for the Democratic nomination.
There is no doubt that the country is at a partisan crest, but this is a much more complicated analysis than may readily appear, and is often not discussed when poll results are published.
Ultimately, the key in any presidential election, of course, is the Electoral College. There are always a few swing states; this year we can focus on Ohio and Florida, which have, in fact, determined the outcome of some recent elections. In addition to Ohio and Florida, we can place Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina as in play, and then the game changes more than a little. Will votes cast for Mr. Johnson and Mr. Stein tip the scales to essentially take those states out of play and cede them to Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump?
Does the race get even more complicated if, as Mr. Kristol predicts, a conservative candidate arises? It is hard to imagine that the conservative candidate could be on 50 state ballots like the Libertarian candidate, but if conservatives focused on the swing states and those in play, then Mr. Trump’s votes could be further diluted.
This will be a unique experience as we watch the polls. However, I caution against just watching, as one must dig into the polls in order to understand what they actually reflect, versus the top line. I can only imagine that the business and advertising managers in network television are salivating over the opportunity to have at least three, and possibly five, candidates running. This leaves enormous opportunity for continuous news coverage. Social media will be abuzz, as each group feels the pressure and the opportunity that these unusual circumstances will create.
Normally, at this point it would appropriate to say “good luck” to the candidates, but in this case, I would say “good luck to the rest of us.”