Monday, April 30, 2012

Gary Johnson's path to 1,000,000 votes: testing the Dondero approach

Strategic voting works:  in the recent elections in Canada's Alberta Province, strategic voting managed to keep the Libertarian-oriented Wildrose Party from becoming the largest party in the legislature.

My friend (and often nemesis, but hey that's life) Eric Dondero has proposed a strategic voting idea for the upcoming presidential election.  Eric supports Mitt Romney for President, but he also has a deep attachment to the Libertarian Party, and seeing the LP crack the million-vote ceiling this year.

In a nutshell, Eric proposes that in states where that are already considered "safe" Romney states, Libertarians and Libertarian-minded Republicans should feel free to cast a strategic vote for the Gary Johnson/Jim Gray ticket.  He identifies SC, GA, AL, TX, AZ, UT, AK, WY, ID, and (maybe) CA as his target states.

What I'm going to do is analyze that strategy and also a few alternatives.

I'm going to begin with several assumptions:

1--Bob Barr's pathetic 524,000 votes in 2008 represents a floor; if you considered yourself a Libertarian and you voted for Barr you'll probably check that box no matter whose name is on it.  So we will start by assuming that the Barr numbers in each of these states is a given.

Important note:  I characterize Barr's campaign as "pathetic" because, quite frankly, I could not support him given his past history and certain specific views.  Eric Dondero provides an important counter-point, and in terms of numbers he's right:

I would not in any way describe Barr's 525,000 vote total as "pathetic."  If you're looking for pathetic try David Bergland 1984 228,000 votes.  It was awful back then.  You should have been around post-Bergland.  For about 6 months, they closed down the national LP HQ, and there was serious talk of completely shutting down the Libertarian Party.  At one point, I think it was May of '85, we were within days of the Libertarian Party disbanding.  The Chair resigned.  The National LP Director resigned.  Amazing NOBODY remembers any of this, except for me. 
(Honey Lanham, Diann Pilcher, Larry Dodge, Mike Holmes, Jim Turney, Paul Jacob, some of the folks around in the LP at that time.)
Bergland was pathetic.  Barr was 2nd best the LP ever had.  And he deserves credit for a very good showing. 

2--Then we're going to assume, for the sake of testing the model, that Johnson/Gray could pull 1% of the GOP vote from 2008.

This is what happens (re-arranging Eric's states into alphabetical order):

AK:  Barr 2008:  4,776 (.4%) plus 6,380 strategic voters = 11,156
AL:  Barr 2008:  4,991 (.2%) plus 12,665 strategic voters = 17,656
AZ:  Barr 2008:  12,555 (.5%) plus 12,301 strategic voters = 24,856
CA:  Barr 2008:  67,582 (.5%) plus 50,117 strategic voters = 117,699
GA:  Barr 2008:  28,731 (.7%) plus 20,487 strategic voters = 49,218
ID:  Barr 2008:  7,175 (1.1%) plus 4,031 strategic voters = 11,206
SC:  Barr 2008:  7,283 (.4%) plus 10,349 strategic voters = 17,632
TX:  Barr 2008:  56,116 (.7%) plus 44,793 strategic voters = 100,909
UT:  Barr 2008:  6,966 (.7%) plus 5,960 strategic voters = 12,926
WY:  Barr 2008:  1,594 (.6%) plus 1,649 strategic voters = 3,243

Thus the Dondero strategy in those 20 states could raise the LP Presidential vote total from 197,759 to 366,499.  That's good, but plainly not sufficient on its own to get the Johnson/Gray ticket over the million vote mark, considering that Barr only managed another 327,000 odd votes from the other 40 states.

So let's add a few states to Eric's plan, going in the other direction and looking for Libertarian votes from "safe" Obama states; to wit:

DE:  Barr 2008:  1,109 plus 1,523 strategic voters = 2,632
IL:  Barr 2008:  19,642 plus 20,311 strategic voters = 39,953
MA:  Barr 2008: 13,184 plus 11,088 strategic voters = 24,727
MI:  Barr 2008:  23,716 plus 20,486 strategic voters = 44,202
NY:  Barr 2008:  19,595 plus 27,527 strategic voters = 48,122
NV:  Barr 2008 4,263 plus 4,128 strategic voters = 8,391

This would add an additional 168,027 Johnson/Gray voters, bringing the total up to 534,526--or equaling Barr's 50-state turn-out in sixteen states.

There is reason to believe that some of these potential totals are pessimistic:  Judge Gray received 216,000 votes in CA running for Senate on the LP ticket in 2004.  Allen Buckley received 127,00 votes in his GA LP Senate bid in 2008, and the LP Gubernatorial/Senatorial tickets in NC managed 130,000 votes.  [Yes, Eric, I know you want hands off NC as a potential swing state for Mitt, but I'm just sayin'.]

Assume for the moment that you could squeeze another 120,000 LP votes out of those states and you're up to 654,000 votes for Johnson/Gray, in fifteen states.

That means you would need to find roughly 450,000 votes in the other 35 states to break a million.

It's a tall order, given the low stock of the national Libertarian Party brand after Bob Barr, but the word "Libertarian" has also entered general political discourse (both positively and negatively) this year far earlier than usual.

The real test would be whether or not you could raise that strategic voting quotient to include .5% of Democrats (since many of Gary Johnson's policies will actually appeal to liberals dissatisfied with President Obama) and closer to 2% of Republicans in the target states.  That would get Johnson/Gray over the million-vote mark very quickly.

Of course, that would also take strategic campaigning on the party of both Johnson/Gray and the Libertarian Party, and the question there would be--are they capable of breaking out of the mold of only talking to the same people, or of blatantly campaigning for the strategic vote.

Time will tell.


Ayn R. Key said...

Dondero has a deep attachment to the Libertarian Party in the same way a virus has a deep attachment to a living cell.

Eric Dondero said...

First time I voted it was straight Libertarian Party 1982 out on board a Guided Missile Destroyer in the middle of the Persian Gulf.

I got my absentee ballot from the Delaware Elections office.

Guess how many of my shipates out of 380 also voted absentee?


The officer in charge of the voting absentee program on board the ship. A young Lt. JG.

So, in the middle of the Persian Gulf I voted straight Libertarian Party of Delaware candidates in 1982, and you Sir, have the audacity to call me a "virus" on the Libertarian Party?

Ayn R. Key said...

Ok, I'll modify my statement. 40 years ago you acted like a libertarian. But ever since Ron Paul fired you you've been a virus.