Could Gary Johnson Cost Mitt Romney The Election?
News from Iowa is that, after surviving a challenge from Democrats and representatives of the Mitt Romney campaign, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson will be on the ballot in that state.
The former governor of New Mexico – who was born in Minot, North Dakota – is telling the Washington Times that he’ll be on the ballot in all 50 states.
Does that spell trouble for Romney? National elections are always littered with a lot of third-party and independent candidates who get some tiny fraction of the vote. Rarely to these candidates make a difference. In my lifetime, I believe only two third-party candidates have ever had a measurable impact on the outcome of a national race. Some say Green Party candidate Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the election in 2000. Ross Perot certainly had an impact on the outcome of the race between George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Could Gary Johnson have that same sort of impact? A couple of weeks ago I would have said no, but after watching the ugly smack down of conservative activists at the Republican National Convention this week, suddenly I’m not so sure.
What the Romney campaign, with a healthy assist from RNC leadership, has done is alienate a significant portion of the Republican base. And it’s not just Ron Paul supporters I’m talking about . The conservative grassroots got a kick in the teeth (to use my own term), and there’s plenty of anger in the movement about it.
The question is, will that anger override the desire to see Obama out of office? My gut tells me it probably won’t, but who knows?
What’s most frustrating about this is that it didn’t have to happen. There was no way Romney was going to lose the nomination at the convention. They could have counted the Ron Paul votes, and Romney still would have won by a couple of thousand votes.
The process is important. If conservative activists take their case to the convention and get beat fair and square I think a lot of people can accept that and unite behind the winner knowing they had their say in the process. But going to the convention and getting railroaded by last-minute rule changes and other shenanigans is another matter entirely, one that breed resentment and anger.
The sort of resentment and anger which inspires people to maybe not turn up at the polls to vote. Or to cast a protest vote for another candidate.
I’m not endorsing that view – I plan on casting an unenthusiastic vote for Mitt Romney myself – but this is a problem Romney and Republican leadership have created for themselves.Tags: election 2012, gary johnson, mitt romney