Romney Looks to Capture Massive Percentage of Libertarian Voters

Over at Cato's At Liberty blog, David Kirby of Freedom Works says that when it comes to grabbing votes from libertarian-minded voters, Mitt Romney is approaching "a high water mark for Republican presidential candidates in recent elections."

Who counts as a libertarian? Kirby explains:

Using three questions, we can define libertarians as respondents who believe “the less government the better,” who prefer the “free market” to handle problems, and who want government to “favor no particular set of values.” These fiscally conservative, socially liberal voters represent 20% of the public in the [latest] Reason-Rupe poll, in line with previous estimates.

Here's a chart that Kirby, a frequent collaborator with Reason's polling director Emily Ekins, put together. In a race featuring Romney, President Obama, and Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, the Republican pulls a whopping 70 percent of the vote. As interesting (to me at least!) is that Johnson, a former two-term governor of New Mexico. After a series of seriously meh candidates, the LP has put forth its best offering in forever.

Kirby writes

Romney’s vote share may be more a libertarian vote against Obama than for Romney. Few libertarians were excited about Romney in the Republican primary. Indeed, Romney’s deficit among libertarian voters may well have been part of the campaign’s strategic calculation of adding Paul Ryan to the ticket. If so, it seems to be working.

More here.

Read the latest Reason-Rupe national poll, released just last week, which is full of great information not just about the presidential horse race but attitudes toward Medicare, drug legalization, tax reform, and more.

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  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    Well, I guess if you define "libertarians" loosely enough--as they did here--you can make this seem plausible. I suspect that many of these "libertarians" would be horrified by real libertarian principles, like the NAP or self-ownership.

  • Robert||

    It's reasonable to distinguish libertarians generally from radical libertarians, just as one would distinguish "conservatives", "liberals", etc. generally from radicals of their type.

  • Rights-Minimalist Autocrat||

    A "libertarian" who supported Gingrich or Perry in the primaries is nothing like anything I'd call a libertarian.

  • Killazontherun||

    No kidding about GayJay. If I could vote for Barr and I did, there is no excuse not to give Johnson the nod. He's not perfect, but pretty damn good on the overall score.

  • Scotticus Finch||

    Perot's 1992 numbers really are remarkable, but it's odd that so many libertarians abandoned him for Dole four years later. It must have been one of those "most important elections of our lifetime" when Clinton had to be defeated lest the Republic fall.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    He got more of the vote in '96 than Johnson will this year.

  • Scotticus Finch||

    Romney: Good, but not quite "Bob Dole good".

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    Bob Dole looked like my grandfather. romney looks like the used car salesman. My grandfather may be fragile and slightly racist, but he's still a good guy. Used car salesmen have earned their reputation fairly and deserve it.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Bob Dole looked like the grumpy old neighbor who yells at the kids to get off his lawn.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    aka: my grandfather.

  • Jumbie||

    Ironically, when he started doing Daily Show comedy bits a few years later, he killed and was likeable.

    All I could think was, 'Where the hell was this guy in 96? THIS guy would have beat Clinton's pants off just on personality.'

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Romney looks like the RL version of:

    http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Guy_Smiley

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    And Obama IS the car salesman. He also sold a lot of guns, but that's a different matter.

  • Scarcity||

    Republicans in the 2012 primaries: "Now Bob Dole, he was a good candidate. But he got people a little too excited."

  • Killazontherun||

    In '96 I tuned out of politics for a few years, directly due to the executive and legislature achieving balance after '94.

    However, Clinton never annoyed me on the scale Obama does. I will have to find coping mechanisms if we get four more years of BO and Mooch.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Clinton turned to the right after 1994 and never looked back, for the most part. Obama appears to have been doubling down after 2010.

  • Killazontherun||

    The odd thing, he governed as a conservative democrat in Arkansas and had the record to back it up. Yet, the first two years in the White House were Democrats Run Wild. As if Clinton took off the mask and Mondale had actually won.

    I suspect Hillary had him by the balls and got the juicier choices on the appointments, except for Lloyd Benson, of course. He was too popular to be denied a roll he wanted.

  • robc||

    IIRC, he lost his first reelection as governor in Arkansas, then won the next time and went on a roll.

    Basically, it takes him two years to figure out his constituency and govern to their level.

    Arkansas switched from 2 year to 4 year terms during his governship.

    He won in 78, lost in 80, won in 82, 84, 86 and 90.

  • robc||

    Also, IIRC, in 1978 and 1980, he was married to Hillary Rodham. In 1982, she was Hillary Clinton.

  • Killazontherun||

    It was never a big deal to me about the spousal surname in my case until we had a kid. Not that she hadn't made the choice herself to join mine, but she was so use to using her own for so long she'd find herself signing documents from muscle memory.

  • Zeb||

    And Hillary Rodham spoke with a southern accent. I recently saw some documentary or something about the Clintons and there was a campaign appearance of Hillary in 92 and she definitely had some sort of accent going. Funny.

  • Killazontherun||

    I have to give her that. Moving to Arkansas for a Chicago gal with a freshly minted Ivy league law degree could not be the easiest decision to make.

  • Killazontherun||

    BTW, her accent still shows up when she is stressing a point.

    It's the old ask a Southerner to count to five. We'll sound perfectly normal until we reach that last word.

  • Pro Libertate||

    My accent has almost entirely vanished, but it comes back some when I'm around drawling Southerners.

  • Robert||

    People in the past decade or so have increasingly been saying "doubling down" inappropriately, when they should say "doubling up". I should check out the Google Ngram; maybe I did already and forgot.

    To double down in blackjack (which is the only source for the metaphor), you double your bet in return for agreeing to take only one more card. So you should use "double down" only to mean situations where the person increases the effort or stake but promises (or is projected) to go no farther than that. Any open-ended increase should be said as doubling up, not down, since up implies increase and down, decrease.

    Until blackjack had a surge in popularity, the popular phrase was always "double up", but the only place I hear it any more is Jerry Hickey's ads for Willner Chemists.

    The only other phrase like that incorporating an up-down paradox was in the 1980s in cx with nuclear arms control, "build down".

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    I pictured that explanation occurring from a rocking chair on a PBS show.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    I'd try to explain why you are being too much of pendant, and the common usage is fine. But you'd just double down.

  • robc||

    I abandoned Perot for Browne.

    I would have voted for Gramm, however, if the GOP had nominated him.

  • tarran||

    Romney’s deficit among libertarian voters may well have been part of the campaign’s strategic calculation of adding Paul Ryan to the ticket. If so, it seems to be working.

    I must say, any libertarian who decided to vote for Romney because Ryan was on the ticket is being an idiot. Ryan in no way is going to 'help' Romney govern better.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I am considering voting for Romney, but not because of anything to do with him. It's not because I think he'll be better. It's because I think my vote will piss off Obama supporters more than a 3rd party vote. And schadenfreude seems to me to be the most logical reason for my vote this year.

  • Jordan||

    This sort of reasoning is why third parties can never gain any traction. The LP does not even have to come close to winning to wield significant influence. All they have to do is take enough votes away from the TEAMs to force them to sit up and take notice.

  • Pro Libertate||

    This is the main reason I'm sticking with Johnson. And why I've voted LP for president for decades.

    Eventually, we'll get enough votes to scare the parties. The good thing is that there are some liberty-minded Democrats who are getting run out of their party, too. They don't even get the rhetorical cover that the GOP sometimes gives its libertarians. Which means that a significant vote for the LP candidate could help change both parties.

  • robc||

    Its pretty much the only reason I voted for Barr. That and hoping he really had changed, but I should have known better on the latter.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    He was a name under the letters L and P. I'd have voted for a rabid shitzu over McCain or Obama.

  • Pro Libertate||

    My thinking, too. I didn't care for Babar any more than anyone else, but my LP vote is a default position.

  • Robert||

    The LP does not even have to come close to winning to wield significant influence. All they have to do is take enough votes away from the TEAMs to force them to sit up and take notice.


    No, Jordan, they'd have to convince a "team" that changing in a direction congenial to them would gain them more votes than it cost them. Don't forget that voters are still in charge, and candidates merely vessels into which their preferences are poured.

  • Robert||

    Seriously, why would candidates of either major party want to trade places with a small minority candidate? Suppose you get 10% of the vote; all that proves is that the voters are against you, 90-10.

  • Doctor Whom||

    All they have to do is take enough votes away from the TEAMs to force them to sit up and take notice.

    This. If Team Red knows that it can take the votes of liberty-minded people for granted, then it will behave accordingly. It's the wolf you feed.

  • Pro Libertate||

    My displeasure with this administration is not all that far from being so great as to vote for Romney, but I'm still voting for Johnson, because I don't think Romney will make any significant difference. Even if he's marginally better on most issues than Obama--and I believe that's probably the case--that's not enough. So I could see some libertarians casting the anti-vote.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    Very few people are voting FOR Romney/Ryan. Many more are voting AGAINST Obama. If the republicans had run zombie Nixon, I don't seriously expect a significant change in the polls.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Of course, this is usually true. Even in the last election. While Obamaniacs deny this, I suspect a good deal of the vote for Obama included people not fond of McCain.

  • Killazontherun||

    McCain comes across as a punk. It is just who he is. Iceman grew up, and became a Senator.

  • Jumbie||

    I strongly oppose this view. Iceman would never have become McCain. Maverick would have.

    Not Iceman: The whole movie, Iceman is about control, restraint, knowing your limits and responsible action. Sound like McCain to you?

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    I'll just say I've never been this inspired to ignore an election as this year. Even when Bush was bumbling about it never felt this pointless. To make matters worse I'm moving right about the time early voting starts so I would have to do a mail in which I really don't feel like doing. Screw it. Sorry Johnson.

  • Pro Libertate||

    No, no, vote Johnson. It's our political apathy--which is the correct viewpoint to have, I note parenthetically--that keeps our numbers low.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    gah, the post office will probably lose my ballot, :(

  • Killazontherun||

    Especially if your zip code isn't SEIU approved.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Then you can experience the joy of righteous rage.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    i've already achieved righteous rage. An unknown count of my ballot is unlikely to affect it much. I'm told most precincts won't even count mail ins unless there is a close race on the ballot. And in south texas, I don't think there will be any close races.

  • Pro Libertate||

    What about towering righteous rage?

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    well there is that...ill think about it.

  • Robert||

    Very few people are voting FOR Romney/Ryan. Many more are voting AGAINST Obama. If the republicans had run zombie Nixon, I don't seriously expect a significant change in the polls.

    Of course, this is usually true.


    It's usually true to some extent, but in this election it's true to an extreme extent. That's why it would've been good to get the best Republican nominee possible in terms of policy rather than electability, because there was no difference this year in their electability. Would've been swell if Gary Johnson had gotten the nomination, because he'd have just as good a chance as Romney at winning the election, because in any state that's in play, all the voters see on the ballot are Obama and Not-Obama.

  • robc||

    I told Democrats this in 2004 and it applies not to Romney.

    You cant win running against an incumbent. You need people to vote FOR you.

    Anybody but Bush lost in 2004, Anybody but Obama will lose this year. Its why Paul, despite some perceived negatives, was the only GOP candidate that was going to be a strong opponent.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I don't agree. 2004 wasn't an economic disaster, and war-weariness hadn't settled in at all.

    2012 is bad all around. With no end in sight.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    true, this is not 2012, but will the unemployed poor actually believe Romney can help them or buy the line that Obama has done his best and they should give him another shot. I think they'll buy it hook line and sinker because Romney hasn't offered them any olive branch to show them how he can help. He's LITERALLY WRITTEN THEM OFF. And when you write off the people that might actually feel you might help their predicament, how do you expect to win?

  • robc||

    2004 wasn't an economic disaster

    And that is what gives Romney a chance. If He can convince some people (not us) that HE can fix the economic problems, then he can win, but it will be people voting FOR Romney, not just against Obama.

    The thing is, Obama seems to be mostly running against Romney, which may make my point worthless, as Obama isnt trying to run on his record at all.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    I agree. The economy was fine, and people knew it, in spite of the media pushing the "jobless recovery" meme. And while people were not happy about how Iraq was going, there had been no more attacks in the US and he got the credit for that.

    My gut feeling is that 2012 is 2004 in reverse. People said they were going to vote against Bush, but when it came down to it, they didn't (and apparently lied to exit poll workers on the way out). I think the same thing will happen this year, except those votes will go against Obama.

  • Proprietist||

    Maybe both parties will learn why they shouldn't select houghty Massachussetts politicians for their nominee.

  • Proprietist||

    Make that "haughty"

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Maybe I wasn't clear, I think a lot of people who say they are voting for Obama will not, when it comes down to it. And they'll probably lie and say they voted for him on the the way out, too.

    But if I'm wrong, you make a good point. Killing presidential aspirations for candidates from Mass would not be a bad thing.

  • Robert||

    You cant win running against an incumbent. You need people to vote FOR you.


    Wrong, especially when it comes to president or governor. Carter won the presidency that way.

  • robc||

    If Ford had been an elected incumbent, it wouldnt have worked.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Pretty much demonstrates why the GOP treats libertarians like a red headed step child. If they're all gonna vote for you anyways, why bother doing more than lip service to small government.

    Republicans spend 3.5 out of the 4 year election cycle telling libertarians how much they hate them. But as long as they're nice a few months before the election, the libertarians always fall in line.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    He'll treat me better this time! He swears he's going to stop drinking soon.

  • The Hammer||

    It makes me sad that 70 percent of libertarians are Tulpa.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    It used to make me sad. I'm pretty much resigned to it now.

  • Robert||

    They treat radical libertarians like a red headed stepchild because to appeal to them, they'd lose more votes from other voters. You can't make hay pitching to the extremes.

    Every ideologue is a redheaded stepchild to the major parties. Extreme traditionalists (so-cons) feel exactly the same way about the GOP. However, the GOP candidates do tend to appeal to moderate traditionalists and moderate libertarians.

    Everything is a compromise. You think the extremists on the other side are happy about Obamacare? No more than they were about Hillarycare. The extremists didn't want privately owned insurance companies to stay in the game.

  • robc||

    But they dont appeal to moderate libertarians. Oh sure, in words, maybe, but not in deeds.

    If they had cut spending a little, that would appeal to moderate libertarians. If they had backed off on the drug war a little, maybe be legalizing pot or allowing medical marijuana in the states that legalized it, that would appeal to moderate libertarians.

    The GOP hasnt done any of that.

  • Jumbie||

    Which makes me think that Romney or his team are politically inept, because when the time came for them to pretend to like libertarians, they shut them out at the convention. All he had to do was make some noise about the Fed, let the libertarians dance on some tabletops while waving Paul signs and after he won in November, he could toss the libertarians out the back window like every other elected R.

    And he would have won. 90% of libertarians would have accepted that token as enough for their vote.

  • robc||

    14% of 20% is 2.8%. That would be a huge number for the LP.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Ohio is no longer a toss-up state, I'm told. So why would anyone here waste their vote on Romney? (Or Obama, for that matter.)

  • Fatty Bolger||

    It's still a toss-up state.

  • FD||

    I don't think Romney (even if he had an R Congress) could get away with the executive order lunacy of Obama. It would be one time that I'd be happy the knee-jerk left (by and large) were occupying the corporate media outlets. I think Romney would end up being much like Bush the elder.
    If Romney were in there now, I'd want Obama to win. Since Obama is in, I prefer Romney to beat him. (Not that either could actually influence me to endorsing them.)
    I used to think, if the incumbent keeps getting removed, D to R, R to D, D to R, over the course of a generaton or two, never earning enough trust for re-election, then maybe the people would finally realize that it's all nonsense, that the executive branch is an illusion, that government cradle-to-grave management was all a lie, that, for a start, we could return to a strict constructionist view of the Constituion and the role of government...
    Of course, then the alarm clock sounds and I wake up.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    Romney would probably effect no change on our foreign policy (the talk on Iran is just that, talk talk talk). He may or may not veto certain aspects of Obamacare, but I wouldn't hold my breath that he gets rid of much beyond the mandate/tax. Which would further eat into the budget and drive our deficit higher. Of course he would have to throw the hard right a bone in banning gays doing something or another and maybe demanding more SWAT raids on drugs and such, so I think he would be a wonderfully hoover-like disappointment.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    You're wrong.

    Congress has many more small government advocates than it did in 2001, the Senate will be solidly R and Romney is campaigning on cutting back government. And the general zeitgeist is one of impending doom because of government overspending.

    Contrast that with 2001. The republican congress was all about pork, the senate was evenly divided. Bush explicitly campaigned on increasing government (compassionate conservative) and the zeitgeist was euphoria over impending (if imagined) huge budget surpluses and how to best spend that money.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    your faith in congress is your weakness. If Romney were a firing breathing fiscal conservative, I'd say he'd be a force to be reckoned with. He is not, therefore things will continue along the same lines in Congress. Though I'd like to see republicans take control of both the house and senate and force Obama into bloody gridlock.

  • Killazontherun||

    By far the worst vote of my life, and I'm including my vote for Dukakis. I knew what a compromised Rockefeller Republican in a cowboy hat disguise W was when I went into the voting booth. My only principle that year was the hate I felt for Al Gore who still reminds me of Jeffrey Dahmer in so many ways.

  • R C Dean||

    Senate will be solidly R

    I doubt it. The last analysis I saw the Repubs pretty much had to take Missouri and Wisconsin, and they are trailing in each. Maybe if this turns out to be another 2010 style wave election, which I'm not feeling, but otherwise the Senate stays Dem by a vote or two.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I think the GOP will take the Senate, but only just. Which means a lot of stuff won't get done, or, more to the point, undone. Charitably assuming for the moment that reform-minded Republicans will do anything good.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Bush explicitly campaigned on increasing government

    So is Romney. He's runing on trillions of dollars in new defense spending, more money for medicared, etc. The Republicans in congress aren't any less about pork than they were in 2001. All that's changed is their rhetoric. Their actions are the same as always.

  • Scarcity||

    Yep, I'll vote for Johnson, but I "want" Romney to win. Basically because if I'm indifferent to the binary outcome, I want the incumbent to lose.

  • Proprietist||

    See, I'm voting for Johnson, but I "want" Obama to win, and "want" the Republicans to win both houses of Congress.

  • Ryan60657||

    "See, I'm voting for Johnson, but I "want" Obama to win, and "want" the Republicans to win both houses of Congress."

    Me too.

  • A Secret Band of Robbers||

    Ideally, with Obama losing the popular vote and Romney doing much worse than expected in crucial red states because of poor turnout and losing votes to Johnson.

  • Proprietist||

    Yes, an electoral college only victory and popular vote loss for Obama would be delicious to watch and would revoke any illusions of a mandate.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    I want Romney to lose, and I specifically want it to be because of Johnson voters costing him Ohio, Virginia, etc.

  • Loki||

    Romney’s deficit among libertarian voters may well have been part of the campaign’s strategic calculation of adding Paul Ryan to the ticket.

    Riiiight, because Paul Ryan is SUCH a libertarian. He's such a fiscal conservative that he wants to maybe the balance the budget 40 years now. And talk about socially tolerant! It's amazing he's even in the Republican party.

    Seriously though, if he wanted to pander to libertarian voters, why not pick Rand Paul? Or just go full monty and pick Ron Paul (he probably would have turned it down, but still).

  • robc||

    Rand wouldnt have taken it, he has only been in Senate 2 years, its not his time.

    Rand is aiming for 2016.

  • Loki||

    Rand is aiming for 2016.

    In all honesty this is probably the biggest reason for hoping for a Romney loss. If Romney wins, then the earliest Rand Paul could run would be 2020, unless he's willing to give Romney a primary challenge in '16 (would probably depend on how aweful Romney turns out to be).

    If past is prelude, then by 2020 voters will be so fed up with the Republicans that the Dem candidate would most likely win, and then Rand would have to try to unseat an incumbent in 2024 that he already lost to once. It's doubtful the GOP would even nominate him then ("you had your chance 4 years ago and you couldn't win then, so fuck off"). The only realistic scenario I can see playing out where we actually get president Rand Paul is Romney loses this year, the GOP is forced to pay more than just lip service the libertarian wing of the party, and Rand Paul wipes the floor with Joe Biden in 2016.

  • Jumbie||

    I'm curious about the Rand 2016 dynamic. He'd be up for senate re-election that year too. Supposing he fought for the nomination all the way through to June before losing it, is there still time for him to sign up for a Senate run to keep his seat?

  • benji||

    You can run for President and Senate at the same time. Kerry did it for example. Biden ran for both President and VP while also running for re-election to the Senate.

  • Alien Invader||

    I could live with a Rand Paul president just fine. But do you really think the GOP is going to let him get anywhere near the nomination?

    He'd have to be so overwhelmingly popular that he's able to just steam roll the establishment.

    We can hope. But whatever, I agree, the only hope for a better GOP is if Romney looses.

    Which is partly why I'm voting Johnson. Johnson's not bad at all himself, first off -- and it's been a very long time since there was a presidential candidate I could say that about (I love RP but he needs to get a few screws put back in place). And second, I think a Johnson vote is the most likely way to help Romney loose.

  • Calidissident||

    Uh oh, Loki, you're going to anger John by implying that Paul Ryan is not the staunch advocate of limited government that we've been told he is

  • ||

    We all can now hate Tulpa just a little bit more today.

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