No third-party presidential candidate has won a state since George Wallace in 1968. But Libertarian Gary Johnson has a plausible chance at winning his home state of New Mexico.
A poll conducted late in September gave Johnson, a former New Mexico governor, 24 percent of the vote. Hillary Clinton was leading with 35 percent and Donald Trump only got 31 percent.
The Santa Monica Observer suggests that not only could Gary Johnson win New Mexico, but such a result could force the election to the House of Representatives because no candidate would get 270 electoral votes:
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson has a real shot at winning the State of New Mexico, where he was governor for 8 years. A poll released by the Albuquerque Jounal newspaper shows Johnson receiving 24 percent of the vote.
While this is below the 35% support given Democrat Hillary Clinton, and the 31% saying they will vote for Republican Donald Trump, it is within the realm of possibility that Johnson could pull enough support away from the major party candidates by Election Day to win the States 7 electoral votes.
The website FiveThirtyEight.com and its analyst, Nate Silver, considers such a result plausible. Sunday, Silver tweeted that the new poll makes “plausible” a map that shows New Mexico going to Johnson on Election Day. This could deadlock the Electoral College between Clinton and Trump, who would receive 267 and 266 electoral votes respectively. Silver’s map in fact show’s that scenario. A total of 270 electoral votes are needed to clinch the election.
But, Silver cautioned, while it’s possible, such a result is “not likely” because the FiveThirtyEight model gives Johnson only a 2 to 3 percent chance of winning New Mexico, and about a 0.2 percent change that causes a deadlock.
That isn’t the only scenario that could force this election into Congress. Yesterday, Heat Street mapped out how Evan McMullin could win Utah and hold both major party candidates below 270 electoral votes.
But can it happen? Gary Johnson can plausibly take New Mexico, where he was a popular governor and is still well-regarded. Plus, Republicans are scrambling to get off the sinking Donald Trump ship as fast as they can. This weekend, the New Mexico College Republicans denounced Trump and endorsed Gary Johnson. Still, the state has a strong Democratic tilt. Democrats have only lost it only once since 1992.
Assuming Johnson does win New Mexico, can he force the election to the House? The likely answer as of today is no. Here’s an electoral map from 270towin.com based on the Real Clear Politics “no toss ups” map, which gives Utah to McMullin (unlikely) and New Mexico to Johnson.
Even under the most optimistic scenario for the third-party candidates, Hillary Clinton would still be elected president. You can take Nevada, Florida, and North Carolina out of her column and she still clears 270.
Still, a Johnson win in New Mexico would certainly be yet another twist in the strangest election in recent memory.