How Gary Johnson could shake up the presidential race
The 2016 election is all about frustration — with politics, with people running for office, with Democrats and Republicans alike. Irritation with politics as usual fueled the rise of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and sustained Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' so-called political revolution deep into the Democratic Party's primary.
Voters seem primed for someone who is outside of the traditional system. Of the most recent presidential elections, this year could provide the best opening for a viable third-party candidate.
Johnson supports abortion rights and marriage equality, but not government-imposed regulations on the environment. He has said the so-called war on drugs was "a miserable failure." He is a staunch supporter of gun rights, and strongly favors immigration reform. He opposes stimulus policies and tax hikes, does not want to grow the military and supports free trade. He does not think the U.S. should get overly involved in international affairs.
In many ways, Johnson reflects the socially liberal, fiscally conservative perspectives that many Americans — especially younger voters — say they hold.
This also isn't Johnson's first foray on the national stage, which could help his prospects. In 2008, Johnson actively supported a fellow libertarian-leaning Republican for president, Texas Rep. Ron Paul. But in 2012, Johnson mounted a presidential campaign of his own, first as a Republican and then as the Libertarian Party's candidate. He finished that race with just shy of 1 percent, but got 1,275,923 votes — the highest number of votes ever cast for a Libertarian candidate.
The big question is whether he can build on that success this election. For a point of reference, a Gallup poll from June 2012 had Johnson at 3 percent. As of June 2016, he's already at 9 percent.
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