Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson made headlines by proclaiming that he actually has a shot at winning the election. “You know how crazy this election cycle is?” Johnson said in an interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace on Sunday. “I might be the next president.” I hate to burst Johnson's bubble, but he's just plain wrong. It would be absolutely crazy if Johnson won the presidency, mostly because the math just isn't anywhere close to on his side.
Johnson's polling as high as 10 percent among likely voters, which gives an indication for how much support he could get in the general election. There's expected to be much higher than average turnout this year due to the contentious election, so lets assume a 70 percent turnout of eligible voters, which would beat the recent record of 61 percent from the 2008 election. That would be a little more than 153 million voters from the country's 218 million eligible population.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are currently the frontrunners by more than 20 points, according to Real Clear Politics' four-way matchup, which includes Dr. Jill Stein. Johnson's average support throughout current polls is 8.1 percent, which works out to about 12.4 million in the hypothetical general election. By contrast, Clinton's current average support of 42 percent will earn her about 64.3 million. That means between now and Election Day, Johnson would have to find a way to siphon off about 50 million votes to be near Clinton's current total.
Even if the race came down to a near three-way tie and Johnson won with only 34 percent of the vote, he's still currently 30 million votes behind. And that's just the popular vote, never mind the electoral college. That kind of underdog story is completely unprecedented in American political history, and as unusual and unpredictable as this election has been, it still doesn't seem like Johnson's victory prophecy is actually going to come true.
Johnson's optimism is certainly appreciated, but ultimately misplaced. His role in this election isn't the final-hour hero, it's just not going to happen. So he has a choice to make about the kind of candidate he wants to be — he can either campaign on the issues and push his fellow candidates to a higher standard, or he can try to compete in traditional campaigning style. If Johnson wants to continue his political career in the future, he'd do much better to be the inspiring little guy than overly confident in his unlikely chances now.