Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson’s chances of becoming president haven’t changed much over the course of the 2012 cycle, during which he ran for the Republican presidential nomination, participated in two national debates, dropped out of the primaries and reentered the race as the Libertarian Party nominee.
Throughout, his odds of national victory have held steady around zero.
But as the presidential race heads into the summer, with President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney locked in a tight contest and voters’ distaste for both major-party candidates running high, political operatives have started pondering a different question: Could Johnson matter, even on the election’s margins?
Poll after poll shows lackluster enthusiasm for Obama and Romney, along with continuing voter disgust with Washington and most national institutions. That probably isn’t enough to push even a single electoral vote into Johnson’s camp. It could, however, put just enough ballots in Johnson’s column — in a kind of disaffected,“throw-the-bums-out” way — to affect the outcome in a handful of states.