In North Dakota Trump Has Wide Lead Over Clinton in Head to Head Race, but Libertarian Polling Strong

North Dakota Republican delegates stand behind Donald Trump at his press conference in Bismarck on Thursday, May 26, 2016. (Dustin Monke / Forum News Service)

According to Washington Post poll of the presidential race in the various states Clinton is looking much stronger than Trump these days, but in North Dakota it’s Trump who dominates Clinton in a head-to-head matchup.

But more interesting are the results from the four-way race that will actually be in front of voters here. When Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are included Trump’s dominating lead becomes much more slender:

ndresults

I think it’s safe to say that Trump will ultimately win North Dakota by a comfortable margin, as every Republican presidential candidate since LBJ has done. It’s also clear that North Dakotans have little love for the Green Party.

But what’s remarkable is Johnson’s level of polling. He’s doing well in North Dakota. In fact, only five other states have Johnson polling higher, and one of them is New Mexico where he once served as Governor (as a Republican).

It’s worth noting that Johnson was born in North Dakota – in Minot, specifically – but didn’t live here very long. I’m not sure what, if any, impact that has on his polling here. Probably not much.

He’s not going to win the state, but keep in mind that he’s polling at 16 percent just four years after he collected just 1.62 percent of the vote during the 2012 general election.

Not only is that a remarkable amount of progress for Johnson, specifically, it could mean some interesting thing for the state-level Libertarian candidates.

The federal races are an obvious place where the Libertarians could put up some big numbers.

Maybe you’re wondering why this matters. Why is it a big deal if these third-party candidates lose by a smaller margin than they typically lose by?

Nobody is going to unseat popular-governor-turned-poular-Senator John Hoeven, but his Democratic opponent is Eliot Glassheim who has raised almost no money for his campaign and was actually in the process of retiring from the state Legislature due to health issues when Democrats, desperate to put a candidate in the race, tapped him to run.

I don’t think Glassheim is going to inspire a lot of votes (he missed the special session of the Legislature earlier this year because of his health), and that could be an opportunity for Libertarian Robert Marquette who has been running a serious-minded if quiet campaign.

And by opportunity I mean Marquette could get a double-digit percentage of the vote. The Libertarians didn’t have a Senate candidate in 2012, and there was no Senate race in North Dakota in 2014.

Johnson’s strong polling performance could also have ramifications for the U.S. House race. Again, I’m not predicting that the Republican incumbent – in this instance the affable Kevin Cramer – is going to lose. But I do think the Libertarian candidate, Jack Seaman, could put up some impressive (for a third party candidate) numbers.

The Democratic candidate, Chase Iron Eyes, was drafted last minute at the party’s state convention this spring. He’s a deeply flawed candidate, and his affinity for the violent anti-oil protesters currently trying to block the Dakota Access Pipeline isn’t going to help him on the statewide ballot (Iron Eyes is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe). Plus, the Democrats don’t seem to be giving their slate of Native American candidates much money.

In 2014, Seaman got almost 6 percent of the vote. Could he, too, get to double digits?

Maybe you’re wondering why this matters. Why is it a big deal if these third-party candidates lose by a smaller margin than they typically lose by?

It’s all about the momentum. This is a very odd election cycle, what with Trump’s rise turning political convention on its head, and it could end up jolting many voters out of their two-party rut. It could make Americans more comfortable voting for candidates who aren’t Republicans or Democrats.

Or maybe this cycle will just be an aberration, and voters will be more comfortable with the major party candidates next cycle.

Who knows. But if I were a member of the Libertarian Party in this state I’d be working not to squander this opportunity for relevance.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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