LEWISTON — When Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson visits Lewiston  on Aug. 26, he’ll likely attract votes away from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, political science professors said Thursday.

Meanwhile, the director of the Libertarian Party in Maine said more voters are joining the party; that Johnson and vice presidential candidate Bill Weld’s visit will boost that trend.

The Libertarian Party will be on the Maine ballot in November for the presidential race, according to the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.

In most elections, a third party Libertarian candidate would be a bigger worry for Republicans, Ronald Schmidt, associate professor of Political Science at the University of Southern Maine, said.

“But this campaign season is kind of bizarre,” Schmidt said. “I’ve seen numbers that Johnson will draw an equal number of voters for both sides. They are national numbers.”

Douglas Hodgkin, retired Bates College professor, agreed. Whether Johnson takes votes from Clinton or Trump “is difficult to predict. … A lot of disgruntled Republicans who are ‘Never Trump’ supporters may be more likely to go for the Johnson/Weld ticket.”


But there’s dissatisfaction with both of the major party’s candidates, Hodgkin said.

Libertarians tend to be liberal on social issues. For instance, many are fine with gay marriage, but conservative with spending, Hodgkin said.

Johnson could attract voters who are socially liberal. But Republicans who are socially conservative Ted Cruz supporters — opposed to gay marriage — “might hold their nose and vote for Trump,” Hodgkins said.

Johnson and Weld are both former governors: Johnson of New Mexico and Weld of Massachusetts.

It makes sense the two are coming to Maine, Schmidt said. Maine has an independent U.S. senator, Angus King. Maine voters like politicians who buck their party occasionally.

The fact that popular U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has denounced Republican nominee Trump and said she’d support the Libertarian candidate if Bill Weld led the ticket could signal some Maine Republicans to vote Libertarian, University of Maine Political Science Professor Amy Fried said.


But people who usually vote Democrat and don’t like Clinton may also go Libertarian, Fried said.

“Greene party candidate Jill Stein is really doing the least well” of all the presidential candidates, Fried said. “There’s some Bernie Sanders supporters who have strong Libertarian tendencies. National data show most Sanders supporters supporting Hillary Clinton, but more of them are supporting Johnson than Jill Stein, which is surprising.”

Still, national polls show Johnson doesn’t have a chance to be elected president, Fried said.

“He’s got to be at 15 percent to be in the debates,” Fried said. “He’s not there.” Johnson could win a state, such as Utah, Fried said. The best Johnson could probably do is attract enough votes so neither Clinton nor Trump get a majority, Fried predicted.

Overall the Johnson/Weld visit, like any candidate’s, won’t leave a great impact on the Maine vote, Hodgkin said, especially in August “when there will be two months or more of distractions.”

But, he added, the visit will provide “a little bit of exposure and people will become aware of them. That could make some difference.”

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