Did Gary Johnson Just Help Trump Win Florida?

Some 130,000 votes stood in the way of a Clinton victory in Florida.

Ilene Prusher
Ilene Prusher
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U.S. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson delivers a foreign policy address at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., October 7, 2016.
U.S. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson delivers a foreign policy address at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., October 7, 2016. Credit: Jim Young, Reuters
Ilene Prusher
Ilene Prusher

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Donald Trump swept up the critical swing state of Florida, which carries 29 Electoral College votes, in a cliff-hanger of an election night which was pointing to a much greater turnout for the Republican candidate than most pollsters expected.

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A state with large sectors of Hispanic voters and other immigrants, most polls had predicted that Hillary Clinton would emerge with a narrow victory here.

But the state is sharply and perpetually divided: It has a heavily Democratic south with many Jewish, Latino and African-American voters, and a conservative north and middle where issues like maintaining the Second Amendment right to own a gun are a top priority.

The area around Orlando – which in June was the site of America’s largest-ever terrorist attack – was particularly seen as an area whose votes were up for grabs.

With 99 percent of votes counted, Trump has 4,577,880 votes in Florida to Clinton’s 4,445,237. Analysts who calculate various election scenarios have said that while Clinton didn’t necessarily need Florida to win the election, Trump did.

Businessman Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, nabbed 203,426 votes – 2.2 percent of the vote. His presence in the race – as well as that of Green Party candidate Jill Stein – frustrated many Clinton supporters, although it’s unclear what percentage of Johnson’s votes would otherwise have gone Democratic or Republican.

Both candidates have campaigned heavily in the Sunshine State, spending more time here than almost any of the other 50 states. While most states are designed blue or red – Democrat or Republican – this one is often called “purple” because it has many independents, swing voters and new voters.

Barack Obama carried the state by razor-thin margins in 2012 and 2008. But the Republican Party remains dominant in the state overall, controlling its house, senate and governor’s mansion. Sen. Marco Rubio, who made a bid for the Republican nomination but was ultimately trounced by Trump at the primaries here in March, was reelected Tuesday night, defeating his challenger, Patrick Murphy.

Amid the last counties to report results Tuesday night was Broward, a heavily Democratic county that includes the city of Ft. Lauderdale. Broward was the county whose controversy-ridden votes were recounted in 2000. Following a contentious post-election challenge, George W. Bush beat Al Gore by 537 votes.

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