How Many Voters Have Been Clamoring for an Option Like Justin Amash?

Elections
Rep. Justin Amash speaks at the Liberty Political Action Conference (LPAC) in Chantilly, Va., September 19, 2013.

(Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Representative Justin Amash, a Republican-turned-independent, announced on Twitter today he is forming an exploratory committee to seek the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president. The Libertarian Party’s nominating convention is still slated to meet in 21 days.

Amash’s decision has been an F5 tornado in the world of political Twitter but is not going to be nearly as big a deal in the offline world.

By sheer numbers, Gary Johnson’s presidential bid as a Libertarian in 2016 didn’t amount to much outside of New Mexico. His bid was considered consequential in part because of the close finish between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The 2016 general election had four states where the margin between the top two finishers was less than one percent (Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) and five places where the margin was less than 3 percent (Florida, Minnesota, Nebraska’s second congressional district, Nevada, and Maine). Four percent here, three and a half percent there, two-and-a-half percent over there doesn’t look like much — until the final margin of victory turns out to be razor-thin.

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Is there reason to think that if nominated, Amash would get significantly more votes than Gary Johnson?

Maybe in Amash’s home state of Michigan. Johnson got 172,136 votes there in 2016. For perspective, Amash received 169,107 votes in his congressional election in 2018. (Apparently Michigan consultants don’t think Amash will significantly impact Biden’s numbers in Michigan.) For what it’s worth, polls have had Biden ahead of Trump in Michigan by three to eight points — and those surveys were mostly pre-outbreak.

Johnson got 146,715 votes in Pennsylvania in 2016, 106,674 votes in Wisconsin, and 30,694 votes in New Hampshire. Does Amash get way more, way fewer, or about the same?

And if, as some Democrats insist, Amash is jeopardizing Joe Biden’s odds of beating Trump by jumping into the race . . . shouldn’t Biden and the Democrats start brainstorming some ways to win over the votes of libertarian-leaning voters?

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