officially announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate last week. And boy, is it a doozy: 39 percent for Democratic incumbent and frontrunner Martin Heinrich, 21 percent for Johnson, and just 11 percent for Republican nominee Mick Rich, according to an August 17–18 Emerson College e-poll of 500 registered voters.This morning brought the first three-way poll since former New Mexico governor and Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson
That 21 percent figure, coming as it does before any real campaigning has begun, would mark the second-highest vote total of any Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate in the party's 47-year history. (Alaska's Joe Miller, a Tea Party guy, received 29 percent in 2016.) Also, an unusually large 30 percent of respondents said they were undecided, perhaps not surprising in a race that until last month showed little interest.
The news for Rich is even worse on second glance: More Republicans in the survey favored Johnson, 27 percent to Rich's 25 percent. And the Libertarian clobbers the Republican among both Democrats (13 percent to 3 percent, with Heinrich getting 60) and independents (25 percent to 7 percent, with Heinrich at 32). Registered Democrats in New Mexico outnumber Republicans, unaffiliateds, and Libertarians by a ratio of 46 to 28 to 24 to 1.
Rich did better in the two three-way polls conducted by his opponents before Johnson's official entry. A Heinrich-backed GBA Strategies poll of 800 likely voters, conducted August 1–5, showed it 49-27-22 for Heinrich-Rich-Johnson, and a July poll conducted by Ron Nielson of 500 registered voters had it at 37-25-24. FiveThirtyEight gives Emerson College a B+ pollster rating, as opposed to GBA's B. (Nielson's NSON Opinion Strategy is not rated, as far as I can tell.)
If the findings from today are replicated by non-push polls going forward, that means that non-Democrats who subscribe to the "spoiler" view of two-party elections (which I don't, for what it's worth) will have a hard time not concluding that the spoiler in this election is Mick Rich.
The Republican has shown zero sign of withdrawing thus far. "What a crazy, wacky world we live in," Rich told the Santa Fe New Mexican last week, declaring that Johnson is "more in sync with [Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders] than he is with Republicans."
National Democrats, meanwhile, have been painting the Libertarian as a dangerous, kooky extremist. Johnson, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted Friday, has "supported abolishing the minimum wage, raising the Social Security retirement age, & gutting health care." Added Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.): "We can't afford to...let Gary Johnson take New Mexico backward at the expense of working families."