Hillary hasn’t noticed that she is locked in a four-way race not the two-way struggle with Trump for which she and her strategist have been preparing. The very premise of Hillary’s campaign is to denigrate Donald safe in the flawed assumption that those she persuades will have no choice but to vote for her.
Wrong. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is on the ballot in all states but Kentucky. Jill Stein, the Green candidate, is on in almost all the swing states.
The Fox News poll suggests that these two alternative candidates hurt Hillary much more than Trump. Her vote share drops from 48% in a two way contest to 41% in a four way ballot test — a 7 point falloff. Trump’s falloff, by contrast, is only 3 points (from 42 to 39). So while Hillary enjoys a 48-42 lead in a head to head with Trump, she is ahead only 41-39 in a four way contest with Johnson drawing 9 percent and Stein getting 4 percent.
Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, is on the ballot in 49 states (contested access in Kentucky). Stein is definitely on the ballot in half the states including the swing states of Ohio, Wisconsin Iowa, and Colorado. She has filed petitions in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Missouri, and Nevada, so she, too will be a factor in November.
The latest Fox News poll shows that 44% of the voters say that both Trump and Hillary are “terrible candidates,” a finding that shows the tremendous potential for growth in the Johnson and Stein votes.
A candidate can only win through a negative campaign in a two way race. But in a four way contest, the potential to drive votes to one of the alternative candidates is very great.
And, while the polls predict that Johnson and Stein would hurt Hillary more than Trump, it is not necessarily obvious to the average voter that they would. Everyone knew that a vote for Ralph Nader in 2000 was a vote against the Democrat Al Gore. But with a Libertarian candidate, the political math is not so compelling.
So rather than see Johnson and Stein as covert ways of electing Trump, voters are more likely to see them as a “plague on both your houses” kind of candidate, a position that is increasingly attractive as Trump and Hillary exchange negatives.
Like it was said of the French Army’s general staff, Hillary is going into the next war perfectly prepared to win the last one. But a four way race requires that she build up her positive image — now at an all-time low. And that’s not an easy task when incriminating emails keep falling out of the sky.