The stakes in the 2016 elections could not be higher. Take the struggling U.S. economy as just one example. Economic growth has been averaging a mere 2 percent a year — well below the normal growth rate Americans have come to expect. And, this slow growth has consequences. Inflation-adjusted median household incomes have stagnated for more than a decade, and the long-term growth deficit is eroding people’s confidence in America’s exceptionalism.
Revitalizing the economy’s historically tepid performance must be a top priority for the next president. It also requires a president who understands that growth cannot be dictated from Washington, D.C. Instead, it is individuals who are free to pursue their hopes and dreams, supported by a small but efficient government, which creates a vibrant economy.
Unfortunately, the two major political parties have nominated troublingly flawed candidates. Alternatively, the economic message of the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, is a pro-growth message well suited to address what ails the U.S. economy.
Perhaps fate, perhaps due to the inherent weaknesses of the two main party candidates, 2016 is also the year when people are more open to third party candidates than ever before. Further, in this unpredictable election cycle, a third party candidate now has his best chance in years — still admittedly small, but a chance nonetheless — to win the White House. Here’s how.
Winning the presidency requires a candidate to secure 270 Electoral College votes. Based on the current electoral math, it is possible no candidate reaches the 270 majority vote threshold. In fact, the New York Times came up with a plausible scenario where both Clinton and Trump only earn 269 Electoral College votes, denying the election to both.
In such an environment, a surging third party candidate can make a real difference. Nationally, Gary Johnson is now polling in the low double-digits. Should he get to 15 percent support in the major polls, he will be included in the nationally televised debates, significantly increasing his exposure.
Perhaps more meaningfully with respect to the election outcomes, Johnson is running strong in several key states, particularly in the West. For instance, in Colorado his support in the latest Quinnipiac University poll is 16 percent. He is also polling at 16 percent in Iowa. As a two-term governor of New Mexico, Johnson has obviously gained a majority of support from the voters of New Mexico in past elections.
A Johnson victory in one or more of these states, when coupled with the possibility that neither Clinton nor Trump can reach the 270 vote threshold, significantly increases the potential that no candidate reaches the necessary majority threshold.
Should no candidate reach the required 270 Electoral College votes, the Constitution contains explicit rules to decide the election — it is decided by the U.S. House of Representatives. Under the rules, each state delegation to the House may cast one vote for its preferred candidate, and the entire delegation can only vote for one of the three candidates who received the most Electoral College votes.
Since each delegation receives one vote, California would have the same voting power as Wyoming. Those delegations with multiple Representatives will take an internal vote to determine which candidate the delegation will support.
It is possible, perhaps probable, that a Republican-controlled House will support the official Republican candidate, but perhaps Snot. The current surge of the Libertarian candidate in the western states could help promote the Johnson-Weld ticket as an acceptable compromise candidate. And, while such an outcome is remote — the political betting site Predict It is currently giving Gary Johnson a 3 percent chance of victory — the chances are not zero.
Given the importance of this election, it is imperative that the winning candidate address the unacceptably slow economy. This will require implementing policies that ease the regulatory burden crushing small businesses, reform the tax code that is discouraging domestic investment, and right size the bloated federal budget. A rising Libertarian alternative improves the chances that such necessary reforms will be forthcoming.