Libertarians: Missed Opportunity

When Gary Johnson flubbed on Aleppo, many saw that as a disqualifier to be President.  Not so fast. The media had a hard time understanding what Aleppo really was and unlike the other mainstream national pols, Johnson immediately owned it — without spin.

But yesterday Johnson officially disqualified himself for President when he couldn’t name a world leader he admired.  He stumbled and then fumbled saying “I guess I’m haveing another Aleppo moment…”.   It was a softball question, albeit in rapid fire from host Chris Matthews.  Weeks ago you could say he was blind-sided by Aleppo, but not now.  When you are trying to gain some legitimacy, you cannot have something like this happen.  He should have been prepared. This was a Town Hall forum, and questions would certainly be wide ranging.

Johnson hasn’t been able to gain real traction in this election, and it is baffling. With such historic high unfavorables for Clinton and Trump, the environment is ripe for a 3rd party takeover.  But other than a handful of excitable millennials, Johnson is going nowhere.  Think back to Ross Perot in 1992, and the impact he had on electing Bill Clinton.  Johnson is failing to have this type of impact.  As the two major parties coalesced around their candidate at the conventions, Johnson gained momentum as the “not him or her” candidate.  Six months before the 1992 election Ross Perot was LEADING in the polling, while Johnson has been working hard to try and crest 15% to get into the debates (and failed).

Many people say are fed up with politics as usual from the two parties.  But the gap between Perot in 1992 and Johnson today is incredulous.  Perot operated in a time without 24/7 cable news, YouTube and Social Media.  He spent millions of his own wealth. Imagine the beast he would be in 2016 running that same campaign.

Johnson had an opening this Fall.  But as many in the GOP have rejected Trump as their guy, they haven’t turned to Johnson.  That’s interesting, as Johnson should be the next best viable option for Conservatives.  As a former GOP governor of a small (in population), western state, Johnson’s Libertarian viewpoints align with many of the Tea Party coalition that rode in over the past six years to take over the GOP far right.  Yet few key Republicans have endorsed Johnson.  And strangely, a growing tide of big name Republicans are flipping to endorse Hillary rather than stay close to home with Johnson.  There has to be a reason for this.  The Chicago Tribune chalks it up to Johnson’s on-camera demeanor (or lack thereof) — or the greater Libertarian Party core values.

There are those who say that establishment Republicans are not about to endorse a third party candidate, that endorsing a non-Republican threatens your status as a Republican.  But it’s hard to understand how endorsing a Democrat is better.  Let’s take that at its word for argument sake.  How then do you square newspaper editorial boards that have long endorsed Republicans either non-endorsing or flipping to endorse Clinton?  The Dallas Morning News refused to endorse any candidate.  The Arizona Republic and Cincinnati Enquirer have flipped to endorse Clinton.

That leaves Johnson out in the cold.  It’s hard to believe that is simply the shunning of a third party. But then again, if Johnson just stays quiet and shuns anymore interviews, he is likely to stand pat or gain in the polls, because his greatest strength is that he is not Clinton nor Trump, and that’s all some people seem to care about this year.

J.

UPDATE – things are looking up for Gary Johnson, the Detroit News today endorsed him. It is the first major newspaper to do so.

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