Gary Johnson is not going to win the presidency. However, if he gains 5% of the national vote on Tuesday, the Libertarian Party will still be a winner in 2016, and position the Party to be a bigger factor in the 2020 election.
Johnson dropping in polls
With apologies to Johnson’s millions of dedicated supporters around the country, the Johnson-Weld ticket will not win a single state in 2016. A few weeks ago, Johnson appeared to have a shot at winning his home state of New Mexico, but a poll released this weekend by the Albuquerque Journal showed Johnson’s support with New Mexicans has dropped from 24 percent in mid-September to just 11 percent today.
On the national level, Johnson’s support has dropped as well. In mid-September, Mr. Johnson was winning 9 percent of the vote in the Real Clear Politics polling average. However, with two days left until Election Day his level of national support has dropped to an average of 4.8 percent.
Federal matching funds for 2020
What makes the five percent number so important to the Libertarian Party is achieving that number will cause the Federal Election Commission to classify the Libertarian Party as an official “minor party” for the 2020 election. This will then qualify the Party to receive federal matching funds for the election.
The dollar amount would depend on the final size of the vote, but it is estimated that 5 percent of the vote would yield at least $10 million in federal funds, as well as give the Libertarian Party a place at the table in discussions related to the 2020 election. Estimates are that Johnson raised about $8 million during the 2016 cycle and an infusion of federal funds in 2020 could provide the push needed to qualify for presidential debates and become a more significant player in America’s politics. The federal matching funds would be for the Libertarian Party and their nominee, whomever that person would be.
Downside to federal funds
Not all members of the Libertarian Party agree that taking federal funds would be a good idea. Assuming the Party does reach the five percent threshold, the issue would be decided at the 2018 national convention. Some Libertarians are opposed to federal funding based on their philosophical belief that the government should be less involved in politics.
The other argument for not accepting the funds is that it creates limits on the amount of money the campaigns can raise on their own, which is the reason the Republican and Democrat parties don’t accept federal matching funds anymore.
The Libertarian Party has been an attractive option for millions of voters who cannot find a reason to support either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. However, a combination of stumbles by Mr. Johnson and the reality that a vote for the Libertarian (or Green Party) candidate will not have a direct effect on the outcome of the election has caused support to erode over the past month.
For those who believe in the future of the Libertarian Party, the prospect of federal funding in 2020 should provide an incentive to get out and vote for Mr. Johnson next Tuesday to help ensure that the Libertarian Party has a louder voice in 2020.