He admits he has little hope of winning, but Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson says Americans can now vote for him in order to get him past the 5 percent threshold, which would entitle his party to up to $10 million in public financing in 2020.
With GOP nominee Donald Trump sagging, Mr. Johnson said backing the billionaire businessman is a wasted vote, so voters should use their ballot to invest in the next election.
“Trump is toast and make your vote count,” Mr. Johnson told The Washington Times. “And by ‘count,’ hey, if it doesn’t result in winning the election, it’ll result in change with future elections.”
Mr. Johnson failed to make his campaign goal of getting on stage for any of the three presidential debates, falling short of the 15-percent polling threshold.
The Real Clear Politics average of polls still puts him at 5.9 percent support in its average of national polling, though political analysts say third-party candidates often poll better than they perform, leaving Mr. Johnson right on the edge of the 5 percent margin he’ll need to win partial public financing for his party next time.
He estimated that would get the Libertarian Party $10 million in public financing in 2020, which he said could ease some of the burden and costs associated with qualifying for the ballot in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia.
“That’d be a game-changer,” he said.
He says he won’t be the man to use it, though, insisting his time as a candidate is over after this year. “I’ve been given my shot. I really have,” he said. “I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and it’s not going to happen with me.”
His backers had hoped this would be the year a third-party could break through, given the historically poor favorability ratings of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
But he’s been stymied by a number of hurdles, including divisions within the Libertarian Party ranks. A few of his former rivals for the nomination say they won’t vote for him, and some of the rank-and-file had been hesitant about the newly declared Libertarian status of former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, Mr. Johnson’s running mate.
Mr. Johnson said the influx of new members would help suppress “fringe” elements. For example, he was booed at one of his party’s debates earlier this year for saying people should have to demonstrate a level of competence to get a driver’s license and for saying he would have signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“I see my kind of candidacy going forward — not somebody who’s going to decry drivers’ licenses,” he said. “I think that is a non-starter. Running for president of the United States and not supporting some sort of proficiency for driving — I don’t think it’s going to cut it.”
The former two-term New Mexico governor said if Mr. Trump loses, the Republican Party as presently constituted will be over, saying GOP calls for inclusiveness and constitutional principles are now tinged with hypocrisy. Coupled with divisions in the Democratic Party, he said the Libertarians are going to be the only growth party in the country moving forward.
“Democrats and Republicans, in my opinion, are going to continue to lose membership or voting preference, registration. Libertarians are the only declared party that’s going to go up in numbers,” he said. “That’s my prediction.”
Mr. Johnson refused to single out Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton as the lesser, or greater, of two evils, saying he’d take a bullet to the head before he’d vote for either of the two major-party nominees.
“Of course, my pitch is nothing’s going to change if you vote for the lesser of two evils,” he said. “Vote for the person you believe in. That’s the only way you’re going to change things.”
He said the number of GOP officials refusing to support Mr. Trump is “unprecedented,” but that he understood if they couldn’t take the next step and say they will back his candidacy.
He said he doesn’t foresee an endorsement coming from 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, one of the highest-profile “never Trump” adherents, but said he appreciated Mr. Romney’s saying he hoped voters got to hear from Mr. Johnson on the presidential debate stage.