A common theme this election cycle has been that Clinton and Trump are luck to be running against the other least-popular candidate to win a major party nomination. I keep wondering why we're still only considering these two party's candidates when there are two others on enough ballets to win the general election if we weren't married to the idea of only electing the Democratic nominee or the Republican nominee.
Particularly strange this time around is that the Republican nominee has never actually been a Republican while the Libertarian nominee and his running mate have both served as Republican governors of their respective states.
My curiosity got the best of me, so I nated the primary results without regard to party.
To start, I came up with a list of everyone that I could remember running for president this election cycle: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Martin O'Malley, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, Gary Johnson, Jim Gilmore, Rick Santorum, Jill Stein, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Bobby Jindal, Vermin Supreme, Lincoln Chafee, Lawrence Lessig, Rick Perry, Scott Walker, and Jim Webb.
Then I divided each of these candidates by 1, 2, 3, or 4 to pair up their support, based on issue positions, with the remaining four candidates: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein.
If each candidate began with equal support and if that support transferred equally to the remaining candidates that share issue positions with the initial candidates, polling among the four remaining candidates would look like this:
I was not surprised that Johnson came out ahead of Trump, but I was surprised that he came out on top of Clinton as well.
Using Wikipedia's popular vote counts from the primaries, I then multiplied each candidate's popular vote count by their relative issue position factors to the remaining candidates.
In this case, Clinton and Stein benefit from splitting the Sanders supporters, and we can see that Johnson's positions are much more resonant than Trump's. Compare actual opinion polling (figure 3) to an approximation based on voters following issue positions (figure 2) and the corrosion of a political party duopoly is apparent.
What's particularly dissonant to me this time, though, is that the Libertarian candidate is much more of a Republican than the Republican candidate. Trump has nearly triple the support he should have disregarding party labels and Clinton has nearly one-and-a-half times the support she should. Johnson and Stein have roughly 1/9 and 2/15 the support they should have, respectively.
Recent news reports have claimed that 13% of Americans would prefer a meteor crash to a Trump or Clinton presidency (presumably that's the missing piece in the figure 3 pie). We already have better options in Johnson and Stein (at least better options than Trump or a meteor. Clinton's a real candidate who I would like to see debate Johnson and Stein without Trump or the meteor in the room).
Here's my appeal, and my call to action: if you are asked who you are voting for by a pollster, say Johnson. If he gets to 15% in a poll, he gets to attend the debates. Stein will likely not have enough support to get into the debates, so without Johnson, there will be no real conservative or real Republican in the debates, which is particularly unfortunate for the balance of power after 8 years of a Democratic White House.
One final note to Republican party loyalists: Johnson has to be a better top-of-the-ticket face for downticket races than Trump. #nevertrump, right?