Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is standing in the way of Republican Mitt Romney’s ability to pull ahead of President Barack Obama, according to the latest JZ Analytics national online poll.
Johnson, a former GOP presidential contender who was twice elected governor of New Mexico, has a 5 percent showing in the latest poll, which has Obama’s lead growing by 6 percentage points over the former Massachusetts governor in a three-way race — 44 to 38 percent.
But in a two-way race without Johnson, the president has only a three-point lead over Romney, which is within the margin of error.
And the news is even worse for Romney in many of the key battleground states that will decide who is the next resident at the White House.
“Sometimes, 5 percent is bigger than 5 percent. It’s bigger than it appears, especially in the battleground states, where it’s very competitive,” said pollster John Zogby.
He said Johnson's candidacy is just as viable in such generally well-known key battleground states as Ohio, Virginia and Florida as they are in Colorado, Nevada and his home state of New Mexico.
“Out west, Libertarians do well, and Johnson is a known face,” Zogby said.
Last week Johnson told Newsmax that he needs to get to 15 percent on a regular basis in polls so he will be invited to presidential debates.
The JZ poll was conducted July 10-13 among 893 likely voters showed Obama up by 45 to 42 percent when they were the only two candidates in the race.
It showed that 51.5 percent of likely voters disapprove of Obama’s job as president, compared with 46 percent who said they approve.
And only 41 percent said Obama deserved re-election, compared with virtually half — 49.6 percent — who said he doesn’t.
In considering the overall results, Zogby noted how Obama “seems to be picking up support among his base” — African Americans, Hispanics, women and young voters — but he raised a broader question regarding the former Massachusetts governor: “Why isn’t Romney doing better?”
“Obama’s showings have been up and down,” Zogby said. “Frankly, he’s not doing well for an incumbent.
“But with Romney, you have to ask: Why can’t he break out of the low 40s?”
Romney’s hope lies in luring more evangelical Christians, Zogby said. Nearly 50 percent of evangelicals said they would not vote for Obama if the election were held today, compared with 36.3 percent who said they would.
But for Romney, 50 percent said they would support him, versus 37.1 percent of evangelicals said they would not.
That’s still not enough support, Zogby said. “Romney needs to win 70 percent of that,” he said, adding that the percentage of those who said they would not support him is “just bad news for Romney right now.”
The poll found 13 percent of the likely voters in this category were undecided on their choice for president. “There’s a large number who are undecided,” Zogby said. “He needs to do something there.”
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