Think Jo Jorgensen Is a Spoiler? Run These Numbers First
As Republicans gear up to blame Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen for spoiling the election in battleground states that President Donald Trump is poised to narrowly lose, it’s worth working through the math: Do they have a case that the presence of a third choice was enough to upend the outcome between the two major parties?
As we await more final results from Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, let’s use as our working example the more completely tabulated state of Wisconsin, which Joe Biden flipped back blue by a margin of 20,534 votes. Jorgensen received 38,270 votes in the Badger State. How would they have been distributed otherwise?
This is unknowable, but we can work through some educated guesses. In 2016, a CBS exit poll asked supporters of Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson who they would have voted for in just a two-candidate race. Twenty-five percent said Hillary Clinton, 15 percent favored Trump, and 55 percent said they wouldn’t have voted at all. Take away that 55 percent from Jorgensen’s 2020 Wisconsin vote and you have only 17,221 total ballots—not enough to overcome a 20,534-vote margin, even if every single Libertarian voter switched to the Republican.
In that same CBS poll, 61 percent of voters for Green Party nominee Jill Stein said they, too, would not have otherwise voted. That compares to a national nonvoting rate of 41 percent. This makes intuitive sense: Third-party voters are by definition less satisfied with the two parties than
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