Next week former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson will leave the Republican presidential primary and mount a bid for the Libertarian Party nomination.
This could be good news for Libertarians. Johnson is a two-term governor and has been able to build a buzzy if not incredibly successful campaign so far.
It’s likely great news for President Obama, since polling indicates he will benefit greatly from a serious third party candidate entering the race.
In its last national poll, PPP tested Johnson in a three-way contest with Obama and Mitt Romney. Romney led Obama in the two-man race. But with Johnson added, Obama was ahead.
“Johnson’s supporters go for Romney 36-23 in a head to head with Obama, so Johnson candidacy has potential to help the President,” PPP’s Tom Jensen tweeted.
This keeps with the general PPP polling trend that any third party candidate would help Obama. From PPP’s analysis:
The strongest potential independent candidate we tested is Donald Trump who gets 19% in a three way contest with Obama at 45% and Romney at 31%. The folks who say they would support Trump go for Romney 71-10 in a straight up head to head with Obama. Donald Trump’s ego could potentially prove to be Obama’s greatest asset for reelection in 2012. Others who get double digits as independent candidates are Ron Paul at 17% and Jon Huntsman at 11%.
Johnson has the potential to really take New Mexico off the table for the GOP, for example. Another PPP poll found Johnson pulling 23% of the vote, leaving Romney with just 27% to Obama’s 44%.
A source close to Johnson noted that a Johnson Libertarian candidacy could be pretty serious. The Libertarian Party will be on the ballot in all 50 states, the source said, and said Johnson will be able to receive matching funds from the federal government in a Libertarian primary, which gives him the chance to raise some serious funds and make some noise.
Johnson’s signature policy stances — well, the ones that made him stand out in the GOP primary — were his support for drug legalization and his anti-social conservative views. Theoretically that could give Obama problems, especially with younger voters. Polling bears that out.
“Johnson gets 14% with voters under 30 nationally and 29% in New Mexico, so yes, he is unusually strong with young voters,” Jensen told TPM. ” There are a lot of young folks who have lost their enthusiasm about Obama but also find the GOP completely repulsive and could find Johnson to be an attractive alternative.”
But based on the overall picture as it looks right now, the most excited voters when it comes to a Johnson Libertarian bid should be voters who want Obama to win a second term.