Justin Amash announced the formation of his exploratory committee only two weeks ago, but there are indications that his campaign is being well-received and is off to a strong start. One of those signs is a new poll that shows Amash already receiving five percent of the national popular vote.
The Monmouth poll dated May 6 shows the new Libertarian candidate at five percent while Joe Biden leads the pack with 47 percent and Donald Trump garners 40 percent. If Amash is removed from consideration, Biden still leads with 50 percent to Trump’s 41 percent.
The poll indicates that Amash is currently pulling more support from Biden than Trump. However, with Biden holding a seven-point lead with Amash in the race, it is likely that the Democratic candidate would win the Electoral College even in a three-way race if the election were held today.
Monmouth notes that Gary Johnson debuted at 11 percent in the March 2016 poll. Johnson fell sharply amid missteps such as his “Aleppo moment” and registered at only five percent by October. He finished with three percent of the national vote.
“Overall, there is not as much of an appetite for a third option as there was four years ago. It’s too early to tell whether Amash will have an impact but if this election ends up being as close as 2016, even a small showing can have a crucial impact,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Amash still has to secure the Libertarian nomination at the party’s convention in Austin later this month, but 2020 could be a the third party’s best opportunity to win an election. Any third-party candidacy is a long shot but, as in 2016, two unpopular and damaged main party candidates leave the door open for a competent and effective third-party challenger. As a candidate who is still in the practice of campaigning, Justin Amash may do better on that score than Gary Johnson, who had been out of office since 2003.
Both Trump and Biden are weighed down with unpopularity, misstatements, and scandals. President Trump’s approval rating is at -13 points in the poll, a drop from negative eight in April. Always an unpopular president, Trump’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic has damaged him even further in recent months.
For his part, Biden has a favorability rating of negative three in the poll. This is down slightly from his net favorability of zero in April but better than his -13 from February. Biden’s popularity has increased since the Democratic Party united behind his candidacy but has been slightly damaged by the Reade allegations. The poll found that even among voters who believe the allegation is true, about a third still support Biden, perhaps because Donald Trump has his own long history of sexual misconduct allegations.
As I’ve said before, there are six months to go until the election and no one should assume the status quo will be static until then. The course of the pandemic is still being unveiled as is the Trump Administration’s response to it. The Joe Biden sexual misconduct scandal is also still being unraveled. The weakness of both major party candidates could provide an unprecedented opening for a third-party challenger like Justin Amash… if he can avoid his own Aleppo moment.