The Libertarian presidential nominee, former Republican Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico, believes the 2016 election will usher in the fall of the GOP and the rise of his own third party.
On Aug. 22, Johnson explained his own conversion from serving as a Republican governor to becoming a Libertarian candidate during an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood.
“I’ve been a self-declared Libertarian since 1971,” Johnson said. “What was the old saying? That if you weren’t a Democrat in college, you didn’t have a heart. And if you weren’t a Republican in later life, you didn’t have a brain.”
The Libertarian nominee added, “Well, I happen to think libertarian kind of encompasses hearts and brains both. And that’s what we all are about.”
Johnson offered a critique of GOP nominee Donald Trump, stating that he believes the business mogul is exploiting the anger that the conservative electorate has against immigration.
“Thirty percent of Republicans believe the scourge of the Earth is Mexican immigration,” Johnson said, adding that he sympathized with GOP voters who believe that Latino immigrants were taking their jobs and draining the welfare system.
In Johnson’s view, these voters are understandably angry but misguided.
“They are not taking the jobs that U.S. citizens want,” Johnson said of Mexican immigrants. “They’re the cream of the crop when it comes to workers. And they are contributing to the economy.”
Johnson stated that Trump’s campaign and the GOP platform were not representative of the majority of Republican voters’ beliefs, adding that they are slowing discovering that the Libertarian Party actually reflects their values.
“This is the demise of the Republican Party,” Johnson said. “This is an opportunity, I think, for the Libertarian Party to become a major party.”
Johnson has been steadily rising in the polls. Aggregating the last seven national surveys going back to Aug. 8, Real Clear Politics found that Johnson currently has an average 8.9 percent support in a four-way presidential race.
In a Pew Research Center survey on the presidential election released on Aug. 18, Johnson scored 10 percent support. Among the poll’s Republican-leaning respondents, 11 percent supported Johnson. Meanwhile, 7 percent of Democratic leaning respondents also supported the former governor.
Staffers on the Trump campaign has made it known that they view Johnson as a threat. On Aug. 19, Trump’s Virginia campaign chairman Corey Stewart deemed Republican voters who are flocking to the Libertarian ticket to be “traitorous and destructive.”
Stewart said the GOP establishment will blame Johnson’s candidacy if Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton wins in November, vowing that Republicans who side with the Libertarian ticket will be blacklisted, according to The Libertarian Republic.
“They’ll be destroyed,” Stewart said. “This is treason against Trump ... They are immature babies who are tearing down the Republican Party.”