Libertarian candidate Ron Paul may be out of the running in this year's presidential election, but that doesn't mean that he won't have a significant impact on the 2012 race. According to a new poll conducted by CNN/ORC, libertarian candidate Gary Johnson has developed a following that may tip the election in this close election. Chalk that up as a victory for Ron Paul, who has worked to put the libertarian ideals that Johnson espouses on the map in this election season, helping to develop an enormous following for Johnson, particularly amongst young people.
According to the poll, 3% of likely voters say they will vote for Johnson in November, and of registered voters, that number ticks upward slightly to 4% of the population. In an election that may only be decided by several percentage points total, that may have a real impact.
What's even more interesting is which way the libertarian voters swing. The poll finds that the inclusion of Johnson in the race hurts Republican candidate Mitt Romney more than President Obama. Obama leads 52% to 46% when he and Romney are the only two candidates in question, buy Romney's support goes down three percentage points with the inclusion of Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein on the ticket. By contrast, Obama's support drops only one percentage point.
So how does Ron Paul factor into all of this? Paul opted to run on the Republican Party ticket, rather than as a libertarian third party candidate, likely to ensure he would get to speak at major Republican events, like the primary debates. Johnson, on the other hand, dropped out of the Republican race and accepted the libertarian nomination for president on May 5, 2012.
While he has not won over all Ron Paul supporters, Johnson espouses many of the same ideas as Paul, such as marijuana legalization and rolling back defense spending. Evidently, the libertarian message is developing more traction.
Back in the 2000 election, third party candidate Ralph Nader took some heat for remaining in the race and taking votes away from Democrat Al Gore, who went on to lose to George W. Bush by a slim margain. Could Johnson be the Nader of 2012?