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Gary Johnson

Can Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Nominee, Swing the Election?

In Gary Johnson ’s first run for the presidency in 2012, as the Libertarian Party candidate, he won just under 1 percent of the popular vote. He did not surpass 3 percent in any state.

by Josh Katz

(New York Times) – That’s not exactly a strong showing. But 2016 could prove more favorable because of the unpopularity of both major party candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Mr. Johnson is at roughly 10 percent in recent polls, well above where he was in 2012. The question, of course, is whether it will have any impact.

Is This a Lot?

American presidential elections are not set up to favor third parties. The first-past-the-post voting methods, in which the winner of the state gets all its electoral votes, make it hard for third parties to get a foothold. (In political science, this is a concept known as Duverger’s Law.)

Historically, winning 10 percent is an achievement. Since George Wallace won 13.5 percent in 1968, only Ross Perot in 1992 earned more than 10 percent of the vote nationwide. But it’s worth noting that Mr. Perot, while getting 19 percent, did not get a plurality of votes in any state, so he was awarded no electoral votes.

Will It Last?

Third-party candidacies have a history of fading. Since 1968, all of the major third-party candidates have seen their polling averages decline closer to the election. The problem is that voting for a third party is often viewed as a wasted vote, which more people accept as Election Day draws near.

The one exception is, again, Mr. Perot’s 1992 campaign. His support began to erode early in the summer and continued to shrink after he left the race abruptly in mid-July. But after he rebooted his campaign on Oct. 1, with only a little more than four weeks until Election Day, his polling aver

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