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Libertarian Gary Johnson Says US Presidential Chances About Gone

  • Ken Bredemeier

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson speaks during a rally late Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, in Parker, Colorado.

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson speaks during a rally late Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, in Parker, Colorado.

For months in the U.S. presidential campaign, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson has drawn a modest amount of support, but after a string of foreign policy blunders, even he admits that his chances of winning the White House are all but nil.

In mid-August, Johnson, the former two-term governor of the southwestern state of New Mexico, occasionally drew 10 to 12 percent support in national political surveys against the major party candidates, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, more often than not taking votes away from her.

But now, polls show Johnson's support dwindling as voters begin to focus more on the November 8 election to pick the successor to President Barack Obama when he leaves office in January, and some states are already allowing early voting. The latest compilation of national polls by Real Clear Politics shows Johnson with 7.1 percent support, far behind Clinton at 43.9 percent and Trump at 40.7.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, in Reno, Nevada.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, in Reno, Nevada.

Johnson failed to gain enough traction -- a 15 percent average in national polling -- to be included in the crucial presidential debates.

Clinton, a former secretary of state looking to become the first female U.S. president, and Trump, a brash real estate mogul seeking his first elected office, will face off Sunday in the second of their three head-to-head encounters, a townhall format where undecided voters will ask them some of the questions along with television newscasters.

Johnson described his electoral chances to The New York Times this week as bleak, saying, "Right now it's a Hail Mary, not being in the presidential debates."

He said he has thought about limiting his national campaign in an effort to win in New Mexico, the state where he was governor from 1995 to 2003 and where at 19 percent in the polling average, he still enjoys more support than he does nationally.

His U.S. support has often come from voters who can't abide casting a ballot for either Clinton or Trump, both of whom have majority unfavorable ratings.

Johnson's vice presidential running mate, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, says he still supports Johnson, but that his primary interest in the last month of the campaign is to defeat Trump, whose own fortunes have slumped in the last week after a poor debate performance against Clinton in late September.

In one interview, Weld said this week, "I'm not sure anybody is more qualified than Hillary Clinton to be president of the United States."

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton boards her campaign plane in White Plains, N.Y., Oct. 4, 2016.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton boards her campaign plane in White Plains, N.Y., Oct. 4, 2016.

Johnson's fortunes have slipped over the last month after exhibiting a distinct lack of interest in foreign affairs.

In early September, when asked how he would address the desperate refugee situation in the war-wracked Syrian city of Aleppo, he responded, "What is Aleppo?"

More recently, when asked to name his favorite foreign leader, Johnson was at a loss to come up with a single name.

"I guess I'm having an Aleppo moment," he said, referring to his earlier gaffe.

In the interview with the Times, Johnson drew a parallel between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad targeting thousands of non-combatants in his country's protracted civil war to the accidental U.S. bombing of an Afghan hospital that killed 60 people. Asked if knew the name of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, Johnson said he did, but declined to offer the name.

Clinton is staying off the campaign trail for a few days to prepare for Sunday's debate, poring over policy briefing books with aides and reviewing Trump's campaign statements.

She has engaged in town hall debates with voters on numerous occasions over the years, but Trump has not, preferring to speak to large rallies of voters.

With that in mind, Trump headed to the northeastern state of New Hampshire on Thursday for a late-day town hall-style gathering with select voters, although the event was not open to the public.

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