As everybody has noted, the major party candidates are setting a record for unpopularity on both sides. And they both have legal problems, too. That’s why there’s more attention to third-party candidates this year: In particular, Libertarian Candidate Gary Johnson. The former Republican governor pleases the right, because he is for small government, free trade, and gun rights; but also pleases the left with his anti-war, pro-gay, pro-choices stands–and is an avid pot smoker.


The trouble is that the Libertarian candidate gets almost no media attention, compared to the major candidates. Johnson even went to court to get into the national debates.

District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ruled that the commission on presidential debates is a private entity, not a “public forum,” and neither Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson nor Green Party nominee Jill Stein can force their way into a debate. “This court could not require defendants to include plaintiffs in the debates because such an order would violate the First Amendment prohibition on forced speech and forced association,” Judge Collyer found. . .

The commission, which has sponsored the debates since the League of Women Voters withdrew from that role in 1988, sets the rules in agreement with officials from both the GOP and the Democratic Party — something third-party candidates say amounts to illegal collusion,

The agreement between the commission and the parties requires presidential candidates to reach at least 15 percent in an average of five national polls in order to earn a place on the stage.

Well, the Greens are probably out, but the Libertarians may reach that 15 percent average, particularly because of the polls the commission chose.

The pollsters that will determine who gets to be on stage come September and October are ABC News/Washington Post, CBS News/New York Times, CNN, Fox News and NBC News/Wall Street Journal. Seems about right, given that these outfits are well respected, the fab five of polling, if you will (and I will). All get solid grades in our pollster ratings. (In order to make the cut, the commission has stipulated that candidates must be polling at 15 percent.)

What’s interesting, though, is that these polls all tend to show Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein doing a tad better than in polls not being used by the commission. [Emphasis added]

Johnson reaches nearly 10 percent support in an average of the most recent commission-approved polls, while Stein is seeing numbers at about 4.5 percent. In non-commission polls, Johnson is looking at an 8 percent average and Stein 3 percent.

Up to now, Johnson has run an unorthodox campaign.

Largely eschewing traditional campaign events, the former New Mexico governor has instead opted to appear almost daily on multiple news programs and appeal to his solid core of online support. . .

Johnson campaign spokesperson Joe Hunter told CNN Monday the campaign is now undergoing a “natural evolution,” having recently ramped up its fundraising efforts with the stated intention of buying advertisements in key states and beginning to hold rallies across the country. . .

Similar to Trump, Johnson and his running mate, Bill Weld, have relied on “earned media” in the form of appearances in the press.

Unlike Trump, the two almost always stay on message.

Since winning the nomination at the Libertarian Party’s convention in May, Johnson and Weld, a former Massachusetts governor, have used their appearances to cast themselves as the centrist candidates between Trump and Hillary Clinton. . .

The Johnson campaign said Tuesday its August “money bomb” fundraising campaign surpassed its goal of $1.5 million based off “entirely digital” appeals for money. The campaign said it raised $840,000 on Monday alone, totaling $2.9 million in donations in the first two weeks of the month. . .

Their most prominent fundraising event so far came in late July at a Hollywood event hosted by Drew Carey, the Libertarian host of “The Price is Right.”. . .

Among the most standout recent entries into the Johnson orbit is a newly minted group called Republicans for Johnson/Weld. . .Weld has taken the lead on outreach to Republicans. However, his biggest prize still eludes him: 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Romney served as governor of Massachusetts after Weld and has said if Weld were topping the ticket, he would be supporting them, but he still needed to hear what Johnson had to say. Months have passed since then without a Romney endorsement.

Romney’s endorsement would give Johnson a chance of winning Utah, home of Romney’s Mormon religion. If Johnson wins at least one Electoral College vote, he’d have a chance to become president, if the election is thrown into the House of Representatives. Also, Jeb Bush has hinted that he may endorse Johnson.

However, Townhall says that Republicans for Johnson/Weld may have a problem: the ticket is also trying to woo Democrats, pointing out five “strikes against them.”

(1) At their first CNN town hall meeting (there’s another one this week), the two supposed small government libertarians blew rhetorical kisses at Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for an hour. . .

(2) Lest there was any doubt about Johnson’s electoral strategy, he boasted that he agrees with Bernie Sanders “73 percent” of the time. That’s a guy who ostensibly believes the federal government should do as little as possible. . .

(3) Johnson came out in favor of President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty, a power grab that was thrown out in court, and that he himself repeatedly said exceeded his constitutional authority. . .

(4) Another theoretically positive aspect of libertarianism is its anti-Statist defense of individual liberties. . . Johnson’s views on these questions sound murky and incoherent, and more in line with the Left’s prism of “rights” and “discrimination.”. . .

(5) What kind of justice does a Johnson/Weld administration envision for the Supreme Court? [The article refered to a HotAir piece, that said the Libertarians would like to appoint judges like Stephen Breyer and Merrick Garland].

Johnson has a fundraising effort called “15 for 15,” asking people to donate $15 to help get him to the 15% polling he’ll need to get into the debates. Once on the stage, Johnson might convince some Trump and Clinton supporters to switch to him. But there’s also a chance that conservatives will only hear his liberal message, and liberals will only hear his conservative pitch.

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Goethe Behr is a Contributing Editor and Moderator at Election Central. He started out posting during the 2008 election, became more active during 2012, and very active in 2016. He has been a political junkie since the 1950s and enjoys adding a historical perspective.

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