gary johnson

Source: Kevin Hart, Publisher

The gender-neutral pants-suit crowd at Hillary Clinton headquarters must have had a field day this past week.

They may even pile into their wind-powered bus and hit the town for some fair trade wine and vegan snacks (I’m betting they tip in “karma,” not cash).

Clinton got a post-convention bounce in the polls that she probably didn’t deserve. The Democrats successfully leaked a story to the press raising questions about GOP nominee Donald Trump’s mental health.

And perhaps worst of all? Reports surfaced that the Republican Party is still looking into the possibility of replacing Trump on the ticket.

But trust and believe, all is not well in Clinton Land. Because there’s one man who could absolutely destroy Clinton’s campaign and ensure a Trump presidency.

No, it’s not Vince Foster (although it should be) — it’s former New Mexico governor, current Libertarian candidate (and admitted marijuana enthusiast) Gary Johnson.

And the more Johnson’s stock climbs in the campaign, the more Clinton should be shaking in her synthetic leather boots.

For years the Libertarians have caused nervous hand-wringing among Republicans like me. And with the Libertarian focus on limited government, that’s certainly understandable.

But several polls over the long-term (ignore the immediate post-convention polls that always come back down to Earth) have demonstrated that Johnson is hurting Clinton more than Trump.  He’s having (and could go on to have) the same effect that Republicans had hoped for when they harbored dreams of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders launching a third-party bid — albeit to a lesser extent.

Most polls show that Clinton’s lead shrinks when Johnson (currently the leading third-party candidate) is introduced into the mix. The effect is especially pronounced among former Sanders supporters.

According to a CNN poll, for example, former Sanders backers’ support for Clinton drops by more than 20 percentage points when they’re offered the alternatives of Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, with most of that support going to Johnson.

This may seem like the antithesis of everything Republicans have been told about Libertarians, but in this race it makes sense for a couple of reasons.

First, I would argue that Trump’s support is more solid than Clinton’s. Trump has been put through the wringer by the press, and anybody still standing with him now isn’t going anywhere.

Clinton is a different story. As many as two-thirds of voters have said they don’t trust her. Mathematically, that means that some of her current support comes from people who don’t like her, but who refuse to vote for Trump. Johnson gives them a way out.

And people who should be in Clinton’s camp have a long history of abandoning her. They jumped at the chance to ditch her for Barack Obama eight years ago, and Sanders largely benefited from being the other, non-Clinton alternative in this year’s Democratic race.

Plus, as with the Republican Party, the Democrats have plenty of single-issue voters who don’t care about the size of government or who exactly builds and maintains our highways. They care about social issues, like abortion access and LGBT rights, and the Libertarians’ socially-left platform is appealing to them.

Every time Johnson says he doesn’t care which bathrooms transgender people use or that he wants to legalize pot, he’s taking votes from Clinton, not Trump.

Johnson’s campaign shouldn’t be a current source of fear for Republicans. It’s Hillary, with her millions of lukewarm backers, who should be nervous.

Ideally, Stein and the Green Party would be more heavily involved in siphoning Clinton support. But with state ballot access issues plaguing the Greens, Johnson is the far better hope.

Johnson doesn’t want to help Trump. But let’s face facts — Johnson is not going to win. In this race, he’s destined to take home the bronze medal, no matter what.

But what he can do is provide a reasonable alternative to the many current Clinton supporters who don’t really want to vote for her.

And they’re looking for one.