There hasn’t been a single poll out of Colorado this year that’s shown Mitt Romney ahead of Barack Obama. Tuesday’s Public Policy Polling poll is no exception: Obama leads Romney in a head-to-head matchup by 49 percent to 42 percent.
But add libertarian Gary Johnson to the mix and the numbers are slightly different: Obama leads 47-39, with 7 percent going to Johnson, according to the PPP poll.
At that level of support, if Johnson qualifies for the ballot, he could end up having a significant impact in a three-way matchup — not only in Colorado but across the Mountain West, where he figures to run strongest.
Libertarian presidential candidates typically struggle to win even 1 percent of the vote in the critical electoral bloc of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. But Johnson isn’t a typical libertarian nominee. He’s a former two-term New Mexico governor with a greater familiarity with elections and campaigning.
Given the competitive nature of those states — to varying degrees, all are expected to be close in November — it wouldn’t take much to affect the outcome in any of them.
According to recent polls from PPP, a Democratic firm, Johnson draws 7 percent in Colorado and 9 percent in Arizona. In May, a poll done for the Democratic group Patriot Majority had Johnson at 12 percent in his home state of New Mexico.
Much, but not all, of Johnson’s support is coming out of Romney’s hide. And that could be a problem going forward for Republicans because as the Libertarian Party nominee, anywhere Johnson qualifies for the ballot, he provides a safe harbor for disaffected Ron Paul supporters in November.
On Facebook, the Cato Institute’s David Boaz made an interesting point in regards to this article: Politico says Republicans worry about Gary Johnson. But if he gets known as the only antiwar, anti-drug war candidate, maybe Democrats should worry.