Gary Johnson to bolt GOP for Libertarians. Will his candidacy matter?
The planned move by Republican candidate Gary Johnson to seek the Libertarian nomination has been the topic of speculation for weeks. Would his third-party candidacy hurt the GOP?
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He’s expected to announce the switch officially on Dec. 28, Politico first reported Tuesday night.
But it’s been a subject of speculation for weeks, especially since Mr. Johnson mentioned the possibility when he essentially gave up his efforts in New Hampshire in late November after biking 500 miles across the state and still garnering just 1 percent or less in the polls, according to Nashua.Patch.com.
Johnson has expressed frustration at the system governing inclusion in televised debates, which requires minimum poll or fund-raising results. He’s only appeared in two of the GOP debates.
Johnson’s news is yet another trigger for speculation about the possible “spoiler” effect that one or more third-party candidates could have on the election in November.
Historically, Libertarian candidates haven’t made enough of a dent to spoil the chances of a major-party candidate, but they tend to “disproportionately hurt Republicans,” says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
“If this continues to be a time of economic dislocation ... then given American history, you would expect one or more independent candidates,” Professor Sabato says.
More than half of Americans – 55 percent – say a third party is needed, compared with 38 percent who say the Republican and Democratic parties do an adequate job of representing the American people, according to a Gallup poll this fall.
But whether they’d really throw their support behind Johnson or any other candidate outside the mainstream is difficult to predict.
“This is a very serious time.... This third-party foolishness will be looked at more soberly this time,” says Patrick Griffin, an unaligned Republican strategist and senior fellow at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College.