The chances of Gary Johnson winning any state is really going to hinge on whether he gets into the debates. If he does not do this, any sort of speculation regarding what is possible may as well be complete fantasy. He could still win a state like Utah, even without being in the debates. And who knows? If Trump does decide to leave on his own terms rather than face humiliation, then all bets are off.
Regardless, we have a pretty good idea of where Gary is going to do well, but which states could he actually win?
A lot of people still haven’t made up their minds in this election, and election aficionados are failing to put forth any meaningful predictions at all. How could they? Every day I pop on over to realclearpolitics.com to see their map, and it’s changing every single day. As I write this, there are 138 electoral votes that are up for grabs. By this time next week, that could be totally different.
This is based on polls, which is admittedly an extremely crude way to assess the lay of the electoral land. But for us third party people, we like polls for a different reason. We simply wait for the polls where our guy is included.
In fact, it’s a major cornerstone of Gary Johnson’s strategy: get into the polls.
So I do look at polls in each state, because it seems like a good indicator of where Johnson’s support is coming from. But it is not the only indicator, by far.
For that, you have to dig a little deeper. I’m not pretending to be an expert political strategist, and there are probably things I missed in each of these states. If I failed to take important variables into account in your state, I apologize.
Utah is ground zero for the Gary Johnson campaign, and it is a big part of his strategy for winning. It was a local paper in Utah where he recently published an op ed clarifying his religious freedom position, citing Utah’s compromise bill as an example of how he would handle the religious freedom issue. It’s an op ed that will likely bridge the gap that had been growing among religious conservatives regarding Johnson.
Also, recall that it was the Chair of the Republican Party of Utah that called for the roll call vote at the start of the GOP convention, a motion that was struck down by the GOP Chair on the grounds that there was not sufficient enough support for a roll call vote among the state bodies. This is not something the Utah GOP is taking lightly.
Then there is Mark Madsen, state Senator of Utah, who bolted from the GOP and announced he was joining the Libertarian Party and supporting Gary Johnson. Madsen is known for trying to pass a medical marijuana bill in Utah, and has made it clear that this isn’t just about Trump. It is about a party he no longer thinks reflects his values, or cares about dissenting opinion.
But if Utah gives Johnson any electoral votes, it won’t just be the result of a dying major party. Utah is a state that could be very friendly to Johnson’s ideas. His brand of pragmatism is a perfect match for a state that reduced chronic homelessness by 91% by spending money to save money. They realized that inaction on the issue was costing the state more than simply paying to house the chronically homeless and help them access health care and employment.
Add to this the fact that Glenn Beck — a Mormon — has said that he will probably be voting for Gary Johnson, and the fact that Mitt Romney — also a Mormon — has not ruled out supporting the ticket, and you have a state that is primed for a Johnson victory.
2. NEW MEXICO
If it wasn’t for the perfect storm that is Utah, New Mexico would be number 1. In 2012, New Mexico gave him his highest draw. The fact that he didn’t get more is probably a testament to how crucial media coverage can be, even in your own state.
Among Gary’s growing list of endorsements is a former political foe that resigned from his post in New Mexico because of Gary’s public support for marijuana legalization. The events in Cleveland resulted in former Department of Public Safety Secretary Darren White going on Twitter and formally endorsing Gary Johnson. I thanked him on Twitter personally for his endorsement, and asked him if he would consider campaigning for him in NM and this was his response:
He also received the endorsement of Lisa Torraco, a New Mexican State Senator that is a rather enthusiastic supporter of Johnson, citing her excitement over New Mexico potentially becoming a deciding factor in this election.
There is also the probably-calculated emphasis he has made during the campaign on the issue of Trump’s controversial immigration proposals. Johnson has a unique way of talking about this, having been the Governor of a border state. New Mexico is 47% Hispanic, which is the highest percentage among all the US states. When he paints a picture of how Trump’s policies would basically lead to racial profiling in states like New Mexico, resulting in the profiling of half a state, he is putting the issue in concrete terms that voters in his state will hear loud and clear. The only obstacle will be convincing them that a vote for Johnson is not a vote for Trump.
3. NEW HAMPSHIRE
The slogan for Gary’s campaign has always been “Live Free,” so the Live Free Or Die State is very likely to respond well to his message. The only thing he needs to do is let them know who he is. Polls show that while he’s the only candidate with higher favorable ratings than unfavorable, 62% of New Hampshire voters still have not formed an opinion one way or the other about Johnson.
For those who don’t know why New Hampshire is a key state for Libertarians, it is the home of The Porcupine Freedom Festival (Porcfest), which is sponsored by the Free State Project. The Free State Project is an effort to convince as many Libertarians as possible to move to a single state and create “freedom in our lifetimes.” Gary Johnson has endorsed the FSP.
Interestingly, the Libertarian Party is not as strong in New Hampshire as the ethos of Libertarianism itself. If anything is an obstacle for Libertarians in New Hampshire, it will be the general feeling that working with one of the major parties is a viable strategy.
The fact that politicians in New Hampshire experience fierce competition during the election cycle, being a key battleground state during the primaries, will certainly not help. But if the unfavorable ratings of the two leading candidates is any indication, there will be a unique opportunity to divorce New Hampshire voters from their parties to entertain a third option.
When Alaska’s statehood was being debated, one of the things that was considered was whether it would be a stronghold for Democrats or Republicans. Many thought the former, due to the expectation that it would become dependent on federal support. But when petroleum reserves were discovered, the Federal government was quickly seen as more meddling than supportive. It has only voted for the Democratic presidential candidate once in it’s history.
The character of the state has always been decidedly Libertarian, given its relatively harsh living conditions and sparse population. Ron Paul had one of his best showings in Alaska, and the same is expected of Gary Johnson. Before marijuana legalization occurred anywhere, Alaska was the only state where an ounce or less of marijuana possession was legal under state law.
Alaska also has the highest percentage of Native Americans compared to every other state, with close to 15%. Native Americans tend to vote Democrat, but usually with only tepid support. Democrats have a platform that more closely aligns with Native Americans, but they’ve long felt like an ignored community, and one that is taken for granted by the Democrats.
But the Native vote does have the power to sway elections. In fact, it might have actually helped get Gary Johnson elected. It also shouldn’t be overlooked that Russell Means, a former Libertarian Party presidential candidate, represents a very pro-Liberty voice among Native people. His speech at a congressional hearing in 1989 serves as a crash course in Native American politics from a decidedly Libertarian perspective. Other states with Native populations that could sway the election include: Montana, South Dakota, Washington, New Mexico, Arizona, and most notably Nebraska.
Like Alaska, the sparse population of Montana gives it a very Libertarian character, where the Second Amendment is huge. States with this sort of geography always seem to top the list of states with the most Libertarians per capita. They were both very good states for Ron Paul, and he would have easily won them if he had gotten the nomination.
But these stats have always existed. Is there any evidence that this year will be different? A few things are certainly different. Two state legislators in Montana have publicly endorsed Gary Johnson as well, which is bound to help him.
There was another state legislator that famously shot a drone in the face with his rifle during a pretty badass campaign ad. Not only did he win, but he introduced a bill which passed and was signed into law that made it illegal for law enforcement to use drones on private property without a warrant.
However, he ran in 2014 for U.S. House and lost to Ryan Zinke, who is a strong Trump supporter. Montana only gets one Representative, and it remains to be seen how Montana feels about that guy being a Trumper.
Another boxy state, with all of the same characteristics as Montana and Alaska, but the political landscape is more clearly divided geographically right down the middle. With the exception of a few Democratic hotspots like the University of Wyoming in Laramie, the state only seems to be varying shades of Red. The pro-coal Northeast will likely go to Trump, unless something unexpected happens.
The New York Times says that it’s the difference between “the relatively socially moderate, Libertarian wing of the Republican party and the social conservatives.” A political science professor that lives there says, “…we’ve had battles here in the state over abortion and other issues. The Libertarian side seems to win out usually, but it’s an ongoing struggle within the Republican Party.”
If Johnson doesn’t win this state outright, he will certainly pick up a few counties in the southern part of the state, where Trump’s pro-coal message has less influence. The liberal hotspots of Laramie and other places may also be more prone to picking a candidate like Johnson because of the minimal risk involved for a liberal to vote third party in a red state.
It would seem like Nevada would be a stronghold for Trump because of his business connections in Vegas, but this would fly in the face of every trend in Nevada for the past two decades. Nevada used to be solid red, until the Clintons changed that in the nineties. Since then, it’s consistently topped lists as one of the fastest growing states in the union. Census data shows that most of those new residents are minorities.
70% if Nevadans live in Vegas’ Clark County. But although that makes Nevada a growing urban state that will likely become Blue, Vegas has always had a decidedly Libertarian flavor. It is ground zero when it comes to sex work and gambling, two issues that Libertarians have always supported. But that alone doesn’t mean Libertarians will win here. There is just as much evidence to suggest that Nevada is losing it’s Libertarian identity bit by bit.
Ron Paul certainly did well in Nevada. He technically won, actually. That is, until they saw that he won and decided to cancel the convention and even turned the lights out on everybody. This created a lot of bad blood among libertarian Republicans in Nevada, who will be even more inclined to vote third party this year.
Add to this the fact that Nevada actually has the first of a growing number of sitting state legislators in the country that have changed their party affiliation to Libertarian while in office: former Republican John Moore. Due in large part to the support he received by joining the LP, he made the switch official earlier this year. He is actually running for re-election this year against members from both major parties who were unopposed in their primaries. If he’s elected, he’ll be the first elected Libertarian State Congressman in the country.
Maybe I’m a little biased, being that Colorado is my home state and all — and I know that this one’s a stretch even by my optimistic calculations — but I really believe Colorado could make history yet again by awarding electoral votes to a third party candidate for the first time in 50 years.
The reason it’s a long shot to win the state is simple: Colorado is a swing state. I used to think that was a good thing, because that means politicians in my state are more likely to be held accountable to voters. And that’s true, but even though Colorado is the birthplace of the Libertarian Party, swing states are not usually good for minor parties because of the general perception that we are spoilers.
But consider what has happened to Bernie people in states like Oregon, and to Cruz people in states like Texas, which has in fact happened on both sides in Colorado. Recall that Trump was unable to get a single delegate in Colorado because his supporters failed to follow simple instructions and attend the required meetings. The RNC eventually awarded those delegates to Trump anyway, which really pissed off the Colorado delegates.
The DNC tried the same thing, and hundreds of Bernie delegates walked out. Colorado was one of the biggest Bernie victories, so the betrayal that his fans have experienced will be strong here in Colorado. I should also mention that Trump recently shocked people in Colorado by actually speaking favorably of an anti-fracking ballot measure, effectively parting ways with established Republican sentiment on the issue in this state.
Add to this an already Libertarian-leaning ethos in the Rocky Mountain State, and you just might have a perfect storm. We made history with marriage equality and marijuana, but don’t forget that two key members of state congress were recalled regarding gun control, and a third forced to resign facing another recall. Our state is a healthy mix of Libertarian values, and if we can convince enough people in this state to divorce themselves from the parties they say they feel betrayed by, then Gary could actually win.
Free and Equal will be co-hosting a debate with Student Voices Count at the United We Stand Festival in Boulder, and Trump has actually requested an invitation. Whether Trump attends or not, this could represent a major event in the election season.
If you have any information about any one of these states that may be relevant to this article, feel free to comment below. Anyone living in these states is encouraged to contact their state affiliates, because your involvement will play a crucial role in the outcome of this election.