There have been a lot of disappointments during this election, and those disappointments have been a major gain for 3rd parties. Overall, no 3rd party gained more than Gary Johnson and the Libertarian party.
For a while, it seemed Johnson was flying high, and more than a few times had people – including myself – believing that he could really put himself and the Libertarian party in position to be a real mainstream presence for the future. To be sure, he’s still doing damage to the mainstream parties, and it’s a shame that he wasn’t able to be more effective.
Sadly, Johnson’s star is now falling. What precious points he had to hold onto are slipping away as the campaign season goes on. While this isn’t abnormal for a 3rd party in any election season, for Johnson, it’s an occurrence he held back on for longer than many 3rd parties have in the past, giving many Libertarians, former Democrats, and Republican apostates hope.
However, FiveThirtyEight notes his numbers began to drop before the debates happened. My guess is that when people learned they were unable to secure him a position on the debate stage, they gave up the Presidency as lost, and began to fade away.
What’s more, Johnson’s flubs, such as the Aleppo gaffe, and being unable to name a foreign leader didn’t inspire too much confidence. Mix this with many people’s unsureness about some of Johnson’s stances made him an easy person to leave. A protest vote primarily relies on dislike of another candidate, not the likability of the candidate being used.
But as Johnson falls, another 3rd party candidate is making waves, and while people seem to be leaving Johnson, they seem to be gathering under Evan McMullin.
When McMullin first arrived on the scene, he was wholly unknown. However, as time went on, the ex-CIA agent quickly made a name for himself as one of the last real conservatives running for office. For many, this was just too good of an opportunity to pass up, and an imperative for those voting their concience. While still sitting at the lower part of the polling spectrum nationally, in states like Utah, McMullin is doing some real damage.
That same forecast shows Johnson with less than 8 percent in Utah now, and he had just 5 percent in three Utah polls released in the last week. Blame independent Evan McMullin. McMullin entered the race for president late, as a choice for anti-Trump conservatives. He’s also a Mormon who was born in Utah. McMullin has momentum in the Utah polls and is now up to 26 percent of the vote in the polls-only model. He even led in the most recent survey of the state.
Sadly, McMullin will not be appearing on all state ballots as Johnson will, but this hasn’t stopped his breakneck campaign from surging forward. This is due to the fact that while McMullin is making plans for now, he’s also teasing action for the future. The words “new party” have been floated around his campaign and supporters more than a few times, and in a time when people have been betrayed by their party, this is an enticing prospect.
While this is all bad news for Johnson, all is not lost. So long as he keeps his polling above 5%, the Libertarian party will qualify for federal campaign funding in 2020. If Johnson isn’t prospected to win, this is actually a decent silver lining to that cloud.