Record-breaking showing gives Libertarians political party status in Iowa

Unofficial results from Tuesday’s election show Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson received 58,796 votes in Iowa, about 3.8 percent of ballots cast.

Before this year, the most successful Libertarian ticket in Iowa gained 1 percent of the vote, way back in 1980. Although Johnson wasn’t able to maintain his much higher polling numbers from the late summer, he more than quadrupled his 2012 raw vote total and share of the vote here.

The result gives the Libertarian Party full “political party status” in Iowa. What does that mean in practical terms?

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Thoughts on Gary Johnson's Des Moines rally and Iowa prospects

Libertarian presidential candidate and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson made his first Iowa campaign stop this year over the holiday weekend. His September 3 rally in Des Moines attracted hundreds of people, making it possibly the largest Libertarian event in Iowa history. You can watch his full speech at C-SPAN or Caffeinated Thoughts.

Johnson will qualify for the ballot in all 50 states and is consistently polling far better than the Green Party’s Jill Stein, the only other minor-party candidate routinely included in public opinion surveys. I continue to hear the Libertarian’s radio ads on various Des Moines-based stations and have seen pro-Johnson television commercials by the Purple PAC on some cable networks.

The four most recent Iowa polls measured Johnson’s support at 8 percent (Emerson College), 12 percent (Quinnipiac), 6 percent (Suffolk), and 12 percent (Marist). Polls have historically overstated support for third-party candidates. Nevertheless, if the competition between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump remains very close here, even a 2-3 percent showing for Johnson could determine who wins Iowa’s six electoral votes.

Though I wasn’t able to attend Saturday’s rally, listening to Johnson’s stump speech reinforced my view that he is on track to outperform all previous Libertarian presidential candidates in Iowa by a considerable margin.

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Iowa among the target states for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson has begun airing radio commercials in Iowa. I heard some of the spots on stations in the Des Moines market over the weekend and will update this post with full transcripts if I can record them. Daniel Strauss reported for Politico on August 26 that the Libertarian candidate “is spending $806,195 this month on radio ads in Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin.”

One of the ads features Johnson arguing that “if a Democrat is elected president, if a Republican is elected president, in four years we will still be at war, America will be four years deeper in debt, we will have four more years of rising taxes.”

A second ad is Johnson arguing against a two-party system.

“Google me, 60 percent of you have said you want another choice in 2016 and now you have one in me,” Johnson says in the ad. “We the people have a chance to do something in 2016 that may not come again in our lifetime. We have a legitimate chance to elect one of our own to the highest office in the land.”

Iowa may be an appealing place to advertise because air time is less expensive here than in many other swing states.

Super-PACs supporting the Libertarian ticket have produced some television and radio commercials, but I haven’t seen or heard any of those yet. AUGUST 31 UPDATE: This Purple PAC ad is on the air in the Des Moines market. I’ve added the video below.

The early advertising push is designed to boost Johnson’s support in national polls to at least 15 percent. The Presidential Debate Commission has said candidates must hit that threshold to be included in the three debates featuring presidential nominees and the one vice presidential debate.

No Libertarian presidential candidate has ever won more than 1 percent of the vote in Iowa; I compiled our state’s results for all previous tickets here. In the last three public polls of likely Iowa voters, Johnson had support from 12 percent, 6 percent, and 12 percent of respondents in a four-way race against Democrat Hillary Clinton, Republican Donald Trump, and Jill Stein of the Green Party.

The Libertarian Party of Iowa has a far stronger organization than any other third party in this state. In addition to Johnson and vice presidential nominee Bill Weld, Libertarian candidates are running for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat, for the U.S. House in the third Congressional district, for six Iowa Senate seats, and for twelve Iowa House seats. Some of these candidates already have yard signs and other campaign materials.

In contrast, the Green Party did not nominate any candidates in Iowa other than Stein and her running mate Ajamu Baraka, even though access to the general election ballot is relatively easy here.

Johnson’s first rally in Iowa this election cycle is scheduled for this Saturday, September 3, at the Grand View University Johnson Wellness Center, 200 Grandview Avenue in Des Moines. Doors open at 1 pm. Stein will headline a Green Party rally at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Sunday, September 11.

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Iowa Senate district 28 preview: Mike Breitbach vs. Jan Heikes

Hours after Democrats across the country had begun to celebrate President Barack Obama’s re-election on the night of November 7, 2012, Iowa’s political junkies were still on the edge of our seats, waiting for votes to be reported in the last few state Senate races. Sometime after 1 am, results from Senate district 42 in Iowa’s southeast corner confirmed that Democrats would control at least 26 seats in the upper chamber. For at least two more years, that firewall would stop Republicans from implementing some of the disastrous policies seen in places like Wisconsin, Kansas, or Ohio.

Democrats are still clinging to the ledge with a one-seat Iowa Senate majority. While Republicans have several districts to target in their quest for 26, Democrats have only one obvious pickup opportunity: Senate district 28 in the northeast corner of the state. This race was the “one that got away” four years ago, as former State Representative John Beard fell an agonizing 17 votes short against Republican Mike Breitbach in the battle for an open seat. Now Breitbach has the advantages of incumbency as he seeks re-election against Jan Heikes.

Follow me after the jump for more on this district’s political make-up and voting history, along with background on both candidates and Breitbach’s first television commercial.

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