Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson had hoped to take advantage of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's record unpopularity and play spoiler in the upcoming presidential election. Now that is looking less likely.
Johnson's poll numbers have been in free fall since August, when he was polling in the low double digits. He now sits at just six points on average. While that would be a significantly larger share of the popular vote than most third party candidates would normally receive, it will not make Johnson a big factor in November.
A new CNN-ORC poll released Monday revealed that Johnson is down four percentage points from the same poll in October. In that same span of time, Clinton and Trump each gained 2 percentage points. The exodus of Johnson's support to Clinton and Trump appears to be concentrated among men. Johnson lost seven percentage points in the polls among men, but none from women. Those men split between Clinton and Trump roughly evenly.
Johnson's sagging polling could be a result of the penchant he has shown for gaffes and his apparent lack of knowledge on certain issues, especially regarding foreign policy — he famously asked "What is Aleppo?" in response to a question on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" about the Syrian city at the heart of the refugee crisis. Johnson could also be suffering from the natural tendency of voters to swing to the major party candidates as the election draws nearer.
But this was supposed to be an election where third party candidates like Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein could make headway, thanks to the polarization caused by Clinton and Trump. Johnson is nowhere near the almost 19 percent of the popular vote independent candidate Ross Perot — the most successful third party candidate in modern history — claimed in the 1992 election when he played spoiler to Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. Even then, Perot was still not able to secure an electoral vote.
In fact, Johnson is not even the third party candidate with the best chance of scoring an electoral vote in this election. That distinction belongs to independent Republican candidate Evan McMullin, who is campaigning via write-in ballot in Utah and, as a result of disillusioned voters, is polling at more than 25 percent in the state, ahead of Clinton and less than five points behind Trump.