Last week when Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson said he didn’t know what Aleppo was – the Syrian city central to the ongoing refugee crisis – it was all pundits could talk about. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake said he was “blowing it.” MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough – Johnson’s flub happened on his show – said it should disqualify him and that the former New Mexico governor was unfit for the White House. Rare’s Dan DePetris said it was a “major blow” to his campaign.
No it wasn’t.
An NBC News/SurveyMonkey weekly presidential tracking poll released Tuesday showed that Johnson’s poll numbers haven’t budged. The Week declared that he’s come out of this controversy unscathed. Reason observed the same thing.
Most of the people already supporting Gary Johnson don’t seem to care.
Even more interesting is that America’s military members – who you would think might be most unsettled by a presidential candidate appearing to be lacking in foreign policy knowledge – still choose Johnson over Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
The Hill reported Monday:
Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson is the top choice of respondents in the most recent polling of the military community.
Johnson was preferred by 37 percent of respondents, which include active-duty, retired and former members of the military, as well as their family members.
The Hill emphasized, “Johnson’s strong showing in the latest poll comes despite controversy over the former New Mexico governor questioning what Aleppo was during an MSNBC interview on Sept. 8.”
Libertarian writer Jeffrey Tucker believes this controversy will end up benefitting Johnson. “Gary Johnson handled his moment of crisis very well. He said he screwed up, apologized, and promised to do better,” wrote Tucker on Monday. “It’s hard not to be sympathetic to that kind of humility.”
He then compared Johnson’s handling of mistakes to the Republican nominee, “Trump takes a different approach that has proven effective for him most of the time: he doubles down and hopes his refusal to admit error will be seen as strength.”
At just 11 percent in this latest NBC News poll – an admirable feat by itself for any third party candidate – Johnson is still four points shy of what’s needed in five specific polls to get into the debates. But those numbers haven’t gone down, as some seemed to think they would.
Let’s face it, most Americans don’t know what Aleppo is either. That’s not an excuse for someone running for president who should be more knowledgable of foreign affairs, but recognition that this isn’t necessarily the kind of mistake voters are going to penalize their candidate for. I would also love to know how many talking heads rushed to Google “Aleppo” before denouncing Johnson’s ignorance.
Gary Johnson getting in the debates at this point is unlikely, but that doesn’t mean he still can’t have an impact. Nothing would be more beneficial, potentially, than being on the same stage as Clinton and Trump, but Johnson’s 2016 Libertarian mission is by no means over.
Not knowing what Aleppo is apparently won’t be the end of his campaign either.