Voters who have been dreading a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the general election just got another option. The Libertarian Party selected former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson as its nominee on Sunday, which means that he'll be on the ballot in all 50 states come November. But could Gary Johnson actually win the presidency? Barring an insane turn of events, absolutely not. But he could shake things up.
At the Libertarian Party's convention in Orlando, Florida, Johnson failed to receive the necessary 50 percent of the vote the first time around, though he was pretty close with 49.5. His nearest opponents were Austin Peterson and John McAfee, the antivirus software maker who is known for moving to Belize, then fleeing the Belizean police and disappearing temporarily in the jungle while on the run from murder charges. (Sounds like excellent presidential material to me!) On the second vote, Johnson managed to garner a decisive 55.8 percent, winning the nomination despite concerns from party radicals that he is not quite libertarian enough.
This won't be Johnson's first time running for president. He also appeared on the general election ballot in 2012, where he received around 1 percent of the popular vote. But that was against Republican and Democratic candidates that were, overall, viewed relatively favorably by the members of their parties. This time around, the story is totally different.
After all, the Republican nominee is Donald Trump, a man who people in his own party have called everything from a "con artist" to "utterly immoral." And Hillary Clinton, who will almost certainly be the Democratic nominee, has many haters of her own (cough Bernie Bros cough), plus an email scandal that just won't go away. Recent polls that pit Johnson against Clinton and Trump show him receiving around 10 percent of the vote. And one only needs to be polling nationally at 15 percent to be included in general election debates, meaning that if Johnson starts to do a little better over the next couple of months, he might get to argue the issues with Trump and (presumably) Clinton on a national stage. That kind of exposure would be huge for a third-party candidate.
When Johnson won the governorship of New Mexico, he did so as a Republican, and some of his critics within the Libertarian Party have dubbed him "Republican-lite." But that's not a bad thing for the general election, especially for those Republicans who like their economic conservatism without a side of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia. Johnson is even hoping to draw disillusioned Bernie Sanders supporters, although they are more likely to head on over to Jill Stein, who is running as the Green Party candidate and is currently polling at 2 percent nationally.
We'll have to see if Johnson pulls a Nader, and swings the election one way or the other. But his nomination means that an already-tumultuous election season just got even more interesting.