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Support for third-party candidates dips as election nears

By Eric DuVall
Support for third-party candidates dips as election nears
Support for Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson has cratered after he failed to earn a place in the debates and suffered foreign policy missteps. File Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- With one notable exception, support for minor party candidates in the 2016 presidential race has dipped into the low single digits, making it unlikely a spoiler candidacy will emerge to influence the overall outcome of the election.

At one point, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson appeared poised to garner enough support in several states that he could have tipped the balance toward Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, depending on which major party candidate lost more support to him.

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Prior to the first presidential debate, Johnson was polling near 10 percent nationally, on average. That number fell short of the 15 percent threshold necessary to gain entry into the first debate. After his absence from the debate and an embarrassing foreign policy stumble where he admitted he did not know what the Syrian city Aleppo was, Johnson's support cratered.

The CNN/ORC poll released Tuesday showed Johnson at 3 percent nationally and failing to capitalize on either Republicans uneasy supporting Trump or independents who polls show view both Trump and Clinton with skepticism.

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On the liberal side of the spectrum, Green Party candidate Jill Stein has steadily polled in the low single digits and has not posed a significant threat to Clinton among core Democrats or left-leaning independents.

The lone exception for minor party candidates this cycle comes in reliably conservative Utah, a state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.

Independent candidate Evan McMullin, a former CIA operative and House Republican staff member, has steadily climbed in the polls in Utah, a state with a heavy conservative Mormon tilt where Trump's brash style of campaigning has worn thin. Trump was crushed in the Utah primary by Sen. Ted Cruz and polls show a majority of the 69 percent of Republicans who supported Cruz in the primary are now backing McMullin, who is Mormon.

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A poll by Emerson College last week showed McMullin, who failed to earn a spot on the ballot in most states due to his late entry into the campaign, actually leading a three-way race against Trump and Clinton in Utah. In the poll, McMullin registered 31 percent support, with Trump at 27 percent and Clinton at 24 percent. It was the first poll this year to show McMullin leading the race there.

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Other polls have shown Trump with the lead over McMullin and the Real Clear Politics average still points to a Trump lead of about 5 percentage points.

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