Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Could the Libertarians Be a Force in NM in 2012?

With former Gov. Gary Johnson expected to announce tomorrow his bid for the Libertarian Party nomination for president, some wonder whether that could make Johnson a real contender in the contest for New Mexico's five electoral votes.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a PPP poll of New Mexico voters showing Johnson taking more than 20 percent of the vote in the general election in a three-way race with Democrat Barack Obama and either Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich as the Republican nominee. According to that poll, Johnson would take 26-30 percent of the Republican vote in New Mexico and win a plurality of the independent vote.

According to PPP, Obama would win the state by 15-17 percentage points with or without Johnson in the race. (That is, if the election were held a couple of weeks ago when the poll was taken.)

If Johnson becomes the Libertarian nominee, he surely would win far more votes in New Mexico than any previous Libertarian candidate.

According to numbers available on the Secretary of State's website, the most votes a Libertarian ever received in a presidential race here was in 1996, when candidate Harry Browne got 2,996 votes in the general election. That was the year when Bill Clinton was re-elected, beating Republican Bob Dole.

In the years since then, the Libertarian candidate normally gets more than 2,000 votes statewide.

The best year for a Libertarian candidate nationwide was 1980, when candidate Ed Clark received 1.1 percent of the national popular vote. However, in every other election the party's standard bearer received less than 1 percent of the popular vote.