It’s been months since the final state finished its recount and finalized its vote totals. The Electoral College voted for Donald Trump and he was inaugurated without a hiccup. Nonetheless, President Trump seems to be fixated on the fact that he lost the popular vote. This insignificant slight has so perturbed him that he’s assigned his new Attorney General to investigate illegal voting. There’s no need to waste taxpayer money on another bureaucratic exercise in futility. Donald Trump didn’t lose the popular vote because of illegal voting, it was Gary Johnson who cost him that win.
Gary Johnson is the most successful third party candidate in two decades. The Libertarian Presidential nominee earned nearly four and a half million votes. Donald Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by just under three million votes. In and of itself that fact wouldn’t amount to much. But, according to Vice Presidential nominee Governor Bill Weld, the campaign’s internal polling showed that approximately 75% of their supporters were Republicans. Therefore, it stands to reason that if the nominee was not Donald Trump, and perhaps a more palatable human being, the Republican nominee could have earned some of those Libertarian votes and won the popular vote.
That certainly is possible, but it’s impossible to say exactly how many of those that voted Libertarian in 2016 would have voted Republican or simply not voted. Previous polls have found that the majority of voters who support the Libertarian Party wouldn’t bother voting if they didn’t have that option. Although, those polls were conducted in traditional election years where the Republican nominee wasn’t Donald Trump. It will be interesting to see whether or not that effect wears off in four years.
In truth, it wasn’t Gary Johnson who cost Donald Trump the popular vote, but rather Trump himself that is responsible for the loss. He alienated vast swaths of moderate Republicans as well as nearly every libertarian Republican that Ron Paul and Rand Paul had brought into the party. As the saying goes, they didn’t leave the Republican party, the party of Trump left them. Those millions of moderate and libertarian Republicans felt more comfortable voting for a couple two-term libertarian Republican Governors. Gary Johnson and Bill Weld provided an honorable alternative and earned those votes. They didn’t “steal” them. Both men can be proud of the place they’ve earned in the history books.