Trump, Clinton have company
By Ann McFeatters
Tribune News Service
After a year living incredulously, we’re down to Hillary and Donald and Gary and Jill.
Don’t be too weary. We still have a long way to go.
Gary is Gary Johnson, a former Republican governor of New Mexico, who has just been nominated for president on the Libertarian Party ticket. He ran four years ago and got 1 percent of the popular vote. This year his running mate is William Weld, a former Republican governor of Massachusetts. Jill is Jill Stein, a Massachusetts physician who ran for president four years ago and got about half a percent of the vote as the Green Party candidate.
Johnson and Weld want more personal freedom, less government and no foreign entanglements. Stein sounds a lot like Bernie Sanders in her dislike of the two-party system and like Sanders and consumer advocate Ralph Nader in her disdain for corporate power and worry over climate change. Nader ran for president as the Green Party nominee most notably in 2000.
I am not including Sanders as a contender because he will not get the Democratic nomination. Even though he keeps insisting that a democratic socialist, which he declares he is, could win the White House, he cannot. By fall, he will have no platform to mount his campaign on, unless his narcissism is as great as Donald Trump’s.
What this is all about is the debate schedule this autumn before the November election and who gets to participate.
Hillary Clinton and Trump have historically high negatives with voters. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found 54 percent of voters view Clinton negatively and 58 percent of voters view Trump negatively. While those numbers are likely to change multiple times before November, they are stunningly high for the two parties at this time in the process.
If Johnson can get to 15 percent popularity in the polls, he will be included in the debates, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates. It was set up in 1987 to “ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners.” While it is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) corporation, its critics say it functions as a way to keep “fringe” candidates out of the debates. It negotiates dates, times, settings and conditions for the debates between or among the candidates.
Johnson already is garnering 10 percent of the vote, according to two national polls that included him. Some polls do not include him, at least not yet. If Stein is included, Johnson currently gets 5 percent and she gets 3 percent. Few polls include her, at least not yet.
After the July conventions, when the Democrats convene in Philadelphia and the Republicans go to Cleveland, Sanders will be out of the picture. Johnson and Stein easily could pick up some of his supporters.
If Johnson gets to 15 percent, as a debate participant, he would have a platform to express his views, some of which resemble those of Sanders. If his popularity grows because of the debates, he could do harm to either Clinton or Trump or both if the popular race continues to be a tossup.
Former President George H.W. Bush vehemently blames quirky Texas businessman Ross Perot’s third-party bid in 1992 for his loss to Bill Clinton that year. And Nader’s bid definitely hurt Democrat and sitting vice president Al Gore in 2000. (Although Gore won the national popular vote, he lost the state of Florida’s electoral votes when the Supreme Court stepped in to decide the famous case of the hanging chads.)
That, of course, must always be kept in mind. We don’t elect presidents by popular vote. We have the infamous Electoral College, whose delegates, based on the popular vote, meet in December to elect the president. But because of the way states are weighted, once again, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico will be crucial states to win, especially for Trump. It can never be said too often: No Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio.
Isn’t this entertaining?
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.