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Eye On Candidates
August 5, 2016

Johnson, Stein pose challenge for Clinton

A slew of polls in the past few days show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a comfortable lead both nationally and in key battleground states, and competitive in several states generally thought to be safely Republican (she leads in Georgia, according to a new poll). But the presence of third-party candidates on the ballot could make things a little less comfortable for her, according to Politico:

Clinton's third-party headache

A raft of new polls out this week carried almost unanimously good news for Hillary Clinton, staking the Democratic presidential nominee to significant leads over Donald Trump. But there’s one potential warning sign in these polls should the race narrow: Clinton’s lead over Trump shrinks when voters are allowed to choose one of the major third-party candidates in the race.

Yet the Libertarian Party’s presidential ticket — composed of former GOP Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico and former GOP Gov. Bill Weld of Massachusetts — appears to draw more from voters who might otherwise be aligned with Clinton, especially younger voters.

The same is true of Green Party nominee Jill Stein — though to a lesser degree, since Stein doesn’t earn nearly the same level of support as Johnson.

Here’s why Democrats should be concerned: As Trump’s support has dwindled in recent days — leaving the GOP nominee with just his fervent supporters — some soft voters might be moving into Clinton’s camp when asked on a two-way ballot, but defecting to a third candidate when given other options.

The threat of third-party candidates siphoning off votes from Clinton would likely be magnified if Johnson qualified for the debates, giving him a platform to expose his message to a wider audience (Stein is thought to be too far back in the polls to have a realistic chance of qualifying). In a scenario where Johnson is able to repeat or even exceed the performance of Ross Perot in 1992, who received 19 percent of the popular vote but no electoral votes, Clinton's comfortable lead could vanish.