CHARLOTTESVILLE — Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson told an interviewer at the University of Virginia that his 2016 bid for president — his second — will be his last.
“This is my last attempt at elected office,” Johnson said in a Q&A at the school’s Miller Center, watched by students and local activists. “I ran as a Republican in New Mexico, a state that’s two-to-one Democrat, embracing the notion of less government. But I’m with the Libertarian Party. It’s growing by leaps and bounds, and I think it’s the logical replacement for the Republican Party.”
Johnson’s remarks came in the middle of a three-stop tour through central Virginia, starting at Lynchburg’s Liberty University, where he drew light heckling for attacking “religious freedom” laws and took a video question from debate-questioner-turned-viral-star Ken Bone. (The question was about what moment from the Oct. 9 presidential debate Johnson had liked the best; the candidate said it was the question about what Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton liked about each other.) Both events drew out plenty of young voters who admitted that they had backed a Republican candidate in the primaries but bolted to Johnson after Trump won the nomination.
Still, Johnson has fallen steadily in public polling since his failure to make the debates — itself a function of poll numbers — and since making high-profile stumbles in TV interviews. While he is on track to win more votes than any Libertarian candidate in history, for some Libertarians, the finger-pointing has begun. Johnson’s strategy of breaking out in Utah has been stymied by Evan McMullin‘s independent campaign, and apart from the libertarian Reason magazine, much of the coverage of his campaign is of the nitpick variety.