Despite leading in some recent polls, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump may receive a serious challenge from Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who has seen an uptick in the polls from presumably conservative voters. A CNN/ORC International poll conducted earlier this month had Johnson as high as 13 percent.
Elections are decided by electoral votes, not the popular vote, and one state is already a cause for concern for the Trump campaign. Utah has seen a surge for Johnson, who has a strong presence in the Southwest as the former two-term governor of New Mexico. An internal poll conducted for Rep. Mia Love earlier this month had Trump at 29 percent with Johnson trailing at just 26 percent in Utah.
Indeed, Trump might be in real trouble in the Beehive State, with its six electoral votes potentially up for grabs. He didn’t receive an endorsement from Sen. Ted Cruz, who won the GOP primary with 69 percent of the vote, and a June poll by SurveyUSA for the Salt Lake Tribune had Trump with a favorable rating of only 20 percent and an unfavorable rating of a whopping 65 percent.
If Utah, a state that hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, has reservations about Trump, should other red-leaning states question their loyalty to the Republican nominee? Would conservatives dare vote for Johnson or even Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the “Anybody but Trump” movement?
Mitt Romney, who like a sizable portion of the Utahns is a member of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has openly discussed voting for the Libertarian party. He had particularly positive words for Johnson’s running mate, William Weld, who happens to be a fellow former governor of Massachusetts.
"If Bill Weld were at the top of the ticket, it would be very easy for me to vote for Bill Weld for president," Romney said. "So I'll get to know Gary Johnson better and see if he's someone who I could end up voting for. That's something which I'll evaluate over the coming weeks and months."
Like Romney, some conservatives may seriously consider Johnson because of their distaste for Trump. Yet, anti-Trump voters who won't support Clinton may have second thoughts about voting for Johnson because of his slim chance to win the general election.
But looking at a conservative litmus test between Trump and Johnson might surprise some voters, which is important considering there is a vacant seat on the Supreme Court.
Neither Trump nor Johnson take an overtly conservative stance. Trump has been inconsistent on the issue, claiming he was “very pro-choice,” in a 1999 interview, but is now “pro-life” and had openly discussed “some form of punishment” for women who undergo an illegal abortion. Johnson has said that the decision should be up to the woman but opposes abortion funding and is against the Roe vs. Wade decision.
Johnson is a supporter of gun ownership rights and claims gun laws are ineffective. In his book “The America We Deserve,” Trump supported "a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun." He now takes a stronger stance on limiting gun control, even favoring the elimination of gun-free zones in schools and military bases.
Johnson is highly opposed to taxation on the wealthy, and wants to eliminate corporate tax and the IRS. He also wants a 23 percent national sales tax. In 1999, Trump was in favor of a one-time 14.25 percent tax on wealth and had recently spoken out about ending loopholes for the very rich. However, roughly 37 percent of his proposed tax cuts would benefit the wealthiest Americans.
Trump stated on Fox News that he is “fine with [affirmative action].” Johnson has stated that minority groups should not receive favorable treatment.
Johnson is firmly against the death penalty after supporting it. “As governor of New Mexico, I was a bit naïve and I did not think the government made mistakes with regard to the death penalty. I came to realize that they do. I don’t want to put one innocent person to death to punish 99 who are guilty.” In his 2000 book, Trump stated that he believes the death penalty deters crime.
— Libertarian Party (@LPNational) July 26, 2016
— NYC for Gary Johnson (@TeamGov_NYC) July 25, 2016
Libertarian Gary Johnson is neck-and-neck with Donald Trump among millennials in new survey -... https://t.co/aKiPl6ipU7
— Morgan Combs (@Ryse_of_Morgan) July 17, 2016
A sad sad truth. "Polls: Libertarian Gary Johnson Will Likely Hurt Hillary Clinton More Than Donald Trump" https://t.co/mjf8QZdHDF via
— Thando Mlambo (@ThandoMlambo) July 15, 2016
Gary Johnson is beating Donald trump in the polls for people ages 18 to 29. Young people have the power to change this impending future.
— Cami Bartowski (@CamiBartowski) July 14, 2016
— Indiana James (@ImIndianaJames) June 23, 2016
Gary Johnson is almost certainly more conservative than Donald trump. But can he excite enough people? I'm doubtful.
— Chris (@chrisdarken) May 27, 2016