The Libertarian Polling Boom

UNITED STATES - Sept 24: Thom Tillis (R) North Carolina during an interview at Roll Call in Washington, D.C.   
Scott Bland
July 24, 2014, 7:45 a.m.

The Demo­crat­ic nom­in­ee is un­pop­u­lar, the Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­ee is un­pop­u­lar, and polls show voters tak­ing a look at the Liber­tari­an. Flash back or flash for­ward: Two mar­quee 2014 cam­paigns are look­ing a lot like the 2013 Vir­gin­ia gov­ernor’s race right now, and that cam­paign provided some use­ful guid­ance for how to watch them. — Quin­nipi­ac’s latest Flor­ida poll con­firmed its pre­vi­ous ones: More people view Gov. Rick Scott (R) and ex-Gov. Charlie Crist (D) un­fa­vor­ably than fa­vor­ably. The num­bers have been even worse for Sen. Kay Hagan (D) and state House Speak­er Thom Tillis (R) in North Car­o­lina, where na­tion­al Demo­crats and state Re­pub­lic­ans also plumb the depths of pop­ular­ity. And re­cent sur­veys in both states show Liber­tari­an can­did­ates pulling 9% or high­er. — Polls usu­ally over­state third-party sup­port, and they’re likely to do so again in North Car­o­lina and Flor­ida this year. That’s the same story we saw in Vir­gin­ia in 2013, when the two un­loved ma­jor party con­tenders pushed Robert Sar­vis (L) high­er than usu­al in the polls — and his ac­tu­al vote share un­der­per­formed 19 of the 20 fi­nal pub­lic polls of his race. — But in races where voters aren’t in love with either nom­in­ee, Liber­tari­ans can still catch on more than usu­al at the bal­lot box. (Sar­vis still pulled in 6.5% of Vir­gini­ans’ votes in 2013.) There’s plenty of cam­paign left, and Tillis es­pe­cially may have an op­por­tun­ity to change voters’ minds about him once the Le­gis­lature’s dam­aging spe­cial ses­sion is over. But on the oth­er hand, most of the money flow­ing in­to these races is neg­at­ive. It would be very un­likely for Liber­tari­ans to do as well in Novem­ber as they’re do­ing at the polls now. But the same sur­veys also show why they could keep the even­tu­al win­ners from get­ting a ma­jor­ity vote all the same.— Scott Bland

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