Matt Welch: If Hillary Clinton Wins Nevada, Florida, North Carolina and Other Close States, She Can Thank Gary Johnson

Matt Welch at

For much of the past half-year, Johnson’s support was about equally comprised of Democrats, Republicans, and independents. Given his consistently impressive showing among Millennials, a key part of the Obama coalition, it’s no wonder that Democrats were freaking out about and throwing millions at their perceived Johnson problem. “Vote for Johnson, elect Trump” warned lefty sourpuss Harold Meyerson. Well, that turned out to be almost exactly wrong.

If you look at a dozen national polls with detailed Johnson numbers over the past three weeks, a striking new pattern, which I first flagged here, has emerged: No longer is the Johnson coalition anything like a 33-33-33 split among Dems, Reps, and indies. Now, amidst the Libertarian losing around half his support over the past two months, his remaining base is consistently 10 percent Democrat, 25 percent Republican, and 65 percent independent. This ratio has been stable not just throughout national polls, but in the half-dozen or so detailed battleground state polls I’ve checked out.

What does that mean in, say, Nevada? Well, Johnson is at 5.3 percent there, according to FiveThirtyEight‘s poll average, while Trump and Clinton are tied at 46.7. If you add 10 percent of Johnson’s totals to Clinton, and 25 percent to Trump, the Republican would have a lead of 48.0 percent to 47.2. The potential Johnson Effect here is worth about 0.8 percentage points in Clinton’s direction.

Yes, yes, there is no such thing as a spoiler, votes do not inherently belong to anybody, and so on. It is plausible, I suppose, that 100 percent of Johnson’s voters in Nevada would have just stayed home if his name was not on the ballot. But it’s also possible that consumers change behavior when presented with more options (especially palatable ones), altering the shape of the overall market.

As mentioned before, the 10/25/65 D/R/I ratio of Johnson’s support is stable across battleground states where polling is sophisticated enough to check. So where else could there be a Johnson Effect, if you choose to believe in such things? Basically, wherever it’s close, or possibly in some Johnson-friendly states that don’t look close now but might end up that way.

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4 thoughts on “Matt Welch: If Hillary Clinton Wins Nevada, Florida, North Carolina and Other Close States, She Can Thank Gary Johnson

  1. Anthony Dlugos

    Welch really likes his presidential polling statistics.

    Those articles are boring the hell out of me.

  2. Floyd Whitley

    The premise of the gentleman’s article is bull….

    Democrats start each election (upon a highly polarized electorate) with an advantage of approximately 242 Electoral Votes (EV) to the Republicans 180. That’s where the presidential election STARTS. Democrats have manipulated all their opponents into a handful of states…they have “defined the battlefield” as it were. And, they have greatly constrained it…into defined “fields of fire”. It is “boxed”. Unlike the Republicans who have repeatedly cast lead from horizon to horizon blindly in hopes of hitting something, Democrats control access and transit routes to that battle with specific targeting. Far more effective.

    Of the available “contested” EV, Republicans must win 90 of 116. Democrats need win only 28.

    1. The reason Florida IS a battleground is because the Republicans MUST win it…OR they cannot win the White House…not ever.

    2. North Carolina IS the focus of Democrat efforts because it too MUST be won by the Republicans if Democrats win the Upper South–i.e. NC & VA–otherwise no road to the White House open to Republicans.

    3. Ohio became “less” important strategically because of the counterweight Upper South. It is still a vital EV state, but moreso to the Republicans.

    4. COLORADO has become more important, because under the scenarios of Ohio doing Democrat, Republicans absolutely must win 8 of the remaining 9 “swing states”…and one of those wins absolutely HAS to be Colorado…or there is no road to the White House for them.

    4. Johnson, Stein or anyone else has nothing to doe with this. It is mathematical. Maybe the Republicans should spend less time spitting out patronizing phony ideology, blame and sop, and instead work on well crafted legislation. You know, actually governing…this ain’t no game of tiddly winks. But every 4 years the Repbulicans show up and play it like there’s no tomorrow.

    5. I realize how easy it is to “label” someone–just as the author did. To villainize and count on prevailing partisan stupidity and most importantly mental laziness to exploit sticking that label on something. The masses are duped by shallow advertisement…Madison Avenue does that same thing every Christmas…from Pet Rocks to Chia Pets. Stuff usualy become worthless before New Years.

    6. In a polarized political world, far too many succumb to stereotypes, personality cults, labels, names, propaganda, red team, blue team, pink team and scapegoats. Unfortunately, those who do so are forever fated to be the cannon fodder of this earth….otherwise things like Jonestown, trenches and cattle chutes could not exist.

    That’s an easy place…to label someone, to scapegoat someone, or for that matter to have a warehouse full of labels and goats. It’s an easy place, to no invest more thought into the process than a bovine cud chewing and bellowing in the pasture. As for substance or wisdom…not so much.

    Just because someone puts frosting on a pasture pie, that don’t make no birthday cake. Call it what you will, or market it however you might.

  3. AMcCarrick

    Floyd, that electoral vote “advantage” has nothing to do with the Democratic Party doing anything. It simply has to do with the fact that the states that lean Democratic are the most populous. Blame a majority of the public for living there if you want to point a finger. Democrats always have had higher party affiliation numbers too.

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