This year could be different for Libertarian Gary Johnson if the Republicans and Democrats move to crown frontrunners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as their presidential nominees, according to Newsday
columnist William F.B. O'Reilly.
While Trump and Clinton continue to lead the pack for their party nominations, their high negatives leave the door for someone like Johnson to pull from both candidates, said the columnist.
"Once party nominees are chosen, only those who score 15 percent or greater in a pre-selected cross section of national surveys are invited to participate in the televised national debates," O'Reilly said. "Normally, that would mean the Republican and Democratic nominees exclusively – 15 percent is a high threshold – but this year is different."
"If former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New York businessman Donald Trump, each with high negative ratings, are the major party candidates, Johnson could easily get himself onto that stage – if he were included in the polling."
Johnson, a two-term governor of New Mexico, has already proved himself on the national stage by gathering the most raw votes of any Libertarian presidential candidate ever in the 2012 election, according to the publication Reason
Johnson and his running mate James Gray pulled 1.27 million votes in 2012 for nearly one person of all votes, compared to President Obama's 51 percent (65.9 million) and Mitt Romney's 47.1 percent (60.9 million).
O'Reilly said with such strong opposition movements against the frontrunners in both parties, Johnson would likely do even better.
"In March, the respected Monmouth University Poll pitted (Johnson) against Trump and Clinton in a three-way race and Johnson scored 11 percent of the vote," O'Reilly noted. "A modicum of publicity would almost certainly put him over 15 percent, especially as frustrated supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders and 'Never Trump' voters become faced with a stark general election choice and begin looking for new options."
O'Reilly added that Johnson's reputation as a fiscal conservative and being strong against government regulation would draw Republicans while his stands as pro-choice, pro-gay rights and pro-marijuana legalization would make him attractive among liberals.
"Johnson has received positive coverage in conservative periodicals like National Review and progressive mainstays like Mother Jones," O'Reilly said. "How many presidential candidates can say that?"
O'Reilly concluded, though, that polling systems and the media have been too "conditioned" to the current two-party system to give Johnson fair enough coverage to make him a viable option to Trump and Clinton.
"If there is any fairness in the American electoral system, this historic and highly unusual presidential race could become more interesting still," he said.
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