Unlike Republican Donald Trump, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson has served in elected office, as the GOP governor of New Mexico between 1995 and 2003.
Unlike Democrat Hillary Clinton, Green Party candidate Jill Stein takes up Bernie Sanders’ free-tuition proposal — and goes a step further by vowing to “cancel student debt.”
Among the alternative long shots for president, Johnson and Stein glean a rare dose of pre-convention media attention these days. Polls showing that voters hold both Trump and Clinton in unusually low esteem help fuel that interest.
Johnson appears best positioned to capture voters who might lean Republican but dislike Trump. On CNN this week, Johnson called Trump’s declarations about Mexican immigrants “just incendiary” and said when asked if he considers Trump a racist: “Based on his statements, clearly.”
Stein, for her part, seems bent on appealing to Sanders fans who refuse to come around to Clinton. “Clintonism caused the rise of Trump,” Stein tweeted this week. “Another Clinton presidency will only make it worse.
“Lesser evil merely paves the way to greater evil.”
In a USA Today poll issued Tuesday, Clinton held 39 percent versus 35 percent for Trump, with Johnson at 8 percent and Stein, 3 percent.
But 51 percent never heard of Johnson and 59 percent never heard of Stein, the surveyors found.
So both hope to become well enough known in months ahead to rise to the 15 percent mark in polls. That’s required for them to take part in televised forums sponsored by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.
Those who follow New York State politics may remember Warren Redlich, a Syosset-born attorney who ran as the Libertarian candidate for governor in 2010. He’s involved with the American Third Party Report, a website devoted to news and opinion on the topic.
“This year it appears the Libertarian ticket is getting more attention. Hopefully the Green ticket will also get more attention,” Redlich said. “From my perspective, the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties is very small. Third parties often bring to the table issues a lot of people agree with but are not in the discussion.”
Redlich disagrees with the idea that “it’s really important to get in the debates. “I think getting in doesn’t matter a lot, and that Libertarians should focus on raising money and delivering the message,” he said.
Redlich took part in a seven-way debate in 2010 that included Democrat Andrew M. Cuomo and Republican Carl Paladino, but it didn’t help much. He yielded just over 48,000 votes statewide, or about 1 percent.
Third-party candidacies cause major-party contenders to try to calculate: How many votes may migrate away from me? How many votes might they siphon from my main rival? How many would otherwise have not voted at all?
Trump and Clinton and their strategists are expected to explore those questions privately as the race intensifies.