The year was 1998 and the state of Minnesota was in a state of agitation. Well, as agitated as they get in Minnesota. The race for governor pitted 2 politicians against each other that had less than stellar support. It was crystal clear to all voters that Norm Coleman, former St. Paul mayor, was a young, hungry politician. To me, and many others, he was a young, future politician-for-life. To put it more bluntly, he was a weenie. A recently switched Democrat-turned-Republican, his polling numbers were not that great running head-to-head against the Democrat leading the pack, Hubert Horatio “Skip” Humphrey III. But Humprhey III had multiple problems of his own fending off multiple challengers on the Democratic side. If the name Hubert Humphrey sounds familiar to you, it’s because Skip’s Dad was the 38th Vice President of the United States, who was also a Minnesota Senator, and for sports fans, his was the name on the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome before it was demolished in 2014. For Minnesotans, there was no more clearer name for the status quo than Humphrey.
As the primary battles of 1998 unfolded, famous Wrestler/Actor/Navy Seal Jesse Ventura jumped into the race. He started polling in the double digits in June of 1998 as Coleman basically iced his side of the nomination and Humphrey struggled to hold off his Democratic party competitors. Ventura’s polling started not so much based on policy, but based on name recognition and the dissatisfaction of the electorate. In September of 1998, as Coleman and Humphrey both finally locked down their nominations, Ventura’s polling first started to hit the 20% range. 20%. If memory serves correct, that was the magic number. From then on, clever commercials, court cases, and likability snowballed Ventura’s candidacy throughout the fall, as the electorate believed that casting their votes for Ventura was not a wasted vote. “Don’t waste your vote on politics as usual,” was Ventura’s tagline.
I don’t remember Ventura ever being ahead in the polls. But I do recall him being within a stone’s throw in November. People believed in the third party candidate and Humphey III seemed to be getting more unpopular by the day. Coleman had the energy, but sometimes that came off as if he was trying to sell you a used car. There was a palpable feeling in the air on Election Day that Ventura was the longshot horse, sprinting way out on the outside lane while Humphrey and Coleman jockeyed on the inside. The media, of course, turned the day into a circus, but as the dust cleared Ventura had won the counties with 8 of the 10 largest cities in Minnesota. The final tally was stunning, with Ventura taking the popular vote 37% to Coleman’s 34% and Humphrey’s 28%.
Now what in the heck does that have to do with 2016? I read article after article, almost daily now, how unpopular both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are. The Clinton name is now synonymous with the status quo and now Donald Trump is the old used car salesman. People keep asking for a third choice and Gary Johnson is right there waiting…
But Gary Johnson isn’t a professional wrestler. There is no meta-level name recognition. I’ve watched Johnson speak and he comes off as a cool college professor, but nothing more. In the year of the angry electorate, there is no bombast, simply real world solutions. So compared to Ventura, he’s already in the hole. And there’s the other nasty truth about America, which is that the popular vote doesn’t decide the presidency, the Electoral College does. That means even if Johnson garners, say, 33% of the vote, in theory he could still come up with ZERO electoral votes.
Apparently it’s Mission Impossible, but conventional wisdom rules don’t apply this year, so this is the Fred Hunt Principle on How Gary Johnson Wins.
Politics makes strange bedfellows. That should be Johnson’s slogan. Make YouTube commercials, get on the hip late night shows, talk to anyone in the media with an audience. But that only gets you to the 10% mark, if you’re lucky. This needs to be the strategy starting NOW.
Drive to Glenn Beck’s studio immediately. Camp out outside of The Blaze’s Dallas offices and beg for Glenn Beck’s endorsement. Also give The Blaze unlimited access to your campaign. Everywhere you go, there’s a Blaze insider to follow. You need publicity, publicity, and more publicity, while the Blaze needs access in order to grow as an independent voice in media. You get Glenn Beck on your team, and you are at 10% with the Jesse Ventura-type bravado at your back. Deep down, Glenn Beck WANTS to endorse the third party candidate and Gary Johnson needs a Champion, someone who will go to the mat for him.
- Call Bernie Sanders. If you just siphon off Trump supporters you’re still dead in the water. A lot of the young people who loved Sanders don’t know all about socialism, they just know they don’t want Clinton. What do Sanders and Johnson share? For starters, disdain for the business as usual way politics. I know they are philosophically different, for goodness sake, chess-champion Gary Kasparov was in America during the primaries warning of the real-world ramifications of Bernie, but if Bernie Sanders says something to the effect of, “I won’t endorse anyone, but I’m personally voting for Gary Johnson”, that goes a long way toward skimming off democrats and getting to the magic number of 20%. I know Sanders said he’s “probably” voting for Clinton, I just find it hard to believe that Sanders is ready for unequivocal support of her. I’m sure there’s some single issue marijuana users who will jump from Sanders to the Libertarian platform.
- Once you hit 20%, you’re in the debates. I’ve seen Trump and Hillary debate, I’m confident that enough Anti-Clinton voters and Anti-Trump voters will vote for “that other guy.” Personally I vote FOR people, that’s why I’m voting for Johnson again even if he polls at 5%. But many Americans aren’t me and are about voting against people. Johnson needs to be seen a viable option. Don’t forget, the political junkies are sick of Trump and Clinton, how do you think it’s going to be when TV, radio, and internet ads start flooding the marketplace in October. That’s the time the casual voters will be jumping to the “other guy”, as long as there’s one that exists.
- Now that you’re in the debates, your message is nationwide, but I’m telling you, don’t leave the Southwest. You have to concede in your head that you’ll never win New York. Sorry, no SNL appearances. But if you work your strategy and you’re all over the Southwest, that will be your imprint. Play on your home-field advantage. If you focus on Arizona, Colorado, and Texas and continue to bang the Anti-Washington drum, you could be a potential leader in those states in November. Once people across the nation see that you’re polling real numbers, let’s say margins similar to Ventura’s in a state like Texas, that’s the ingredient that gets places like CNN and Fox talking about you as a real option. As Election Day approaches, you will be running downhill while the other 2 will be in the muck and mire.
- Don’t worry about never leading. As long as you are working on the upward projectile, people are already disgusted by the two other options, you need to show people that you’re not Ross Perot.
Ventura was my favorite politician until 9-11. When I moved back to Ohio, I told anyone who would listen about Ventura’s stunning win, like it was some type of American folklore. As a matter of fact, I bought my first computer with my refund check from Ventura. One of Ventura’s platforms was government worked for the people, so the government shouldn’t run in the red, but also shouldn’t be making a profit. Taxes were the citizens’ money. So once elected, Ventura kept his promise and sent the citizens refund checks. Do I remember much else Ventura did during his tenure? Quite frankly, no. I remember he didn’t want to run for re-election due to family issues that seemed real. Ventura never seemed far from the spotlight, though. The signs were he was gearing up for a national run that didn’t materialize. After 9-11, Ventura blamed George Bush for the terror attacks. Without putting words in his mouth, he seemed to allude to a conspiracy by Bush to allow the attacks to happen and that there were some sort of detonation devices in the towers. I used to joke that Ventura made it seem like Bush was in the Twin Towers with a backpack of explosives, kind of like the supervillain in an action movie. After that, I just couldn’t look at Jesse the same again. To me, 9-11 was a conspiracy of American laziness, poor departmental communication, and simple missed signs.
Nearly 20 years later after that Minnesota race, Gary Johnson stands at a crossroad. There is real anger at the two party system, many people see the presidential race as I do, just 2 big corporations asking you to vote for their crappy CEOs. If Johnson can just get into those debates, I think he has a fighter’s chance. Johnson needs a plan for victory and he needs to work that plan. Don’t play to your opponents strengths, play to your strengths.
In regards to the issue of a Trump-Clinton-Johnson stagnate occuring if no one reaches 270 electoral votes. Let me ask you this rhetorical question that you, the reader, will have to answer for yourself, because I can’t answer it. If the race goes to Congress, who do you think Paul Ryan will go to the wall for, ex-New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, or Donald Trump?
Whatever happened to…
Norm Coleman: 4 years after losing to Ventura, Norm Coleman ran for the Senate seat in Minnesota and beat a 74 year old Walter Mondale in 2002. Yes, that Walter Mondale. Coleman was running against popular Democrat Paul Wellstone when Wellstone died in a plane crash 11 days before the election. Despite only having 11 days to campaign, Mondale only lost by a 50% to 47% margin. During Coleman’s re-election campaign in 2008, Senator Coleman found himself running against another celebrity, Saturday Night Live writer and One Man Mobile Uplink Unit Al Franken. Political novice Franken beat Coleman by 312 votes out of nearly 3 million cast. Maybe on another day, we’ll talk about that election, because Coleman kept appealing his loss all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court and that election wasn’t finalized until June 2009.
And, to top all that off, according to an article in The Nation in 2014, Coleman’s now the head of a GOP Super PAC and a lobbyist on behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Hubert “Skip” Humphrey III: After his 1998 defeat, Humphrey returned to the private sector. I’m sure he rooted on his son, Hubert H. “Buck” Humphrey IV, who ran for Minnesota Secretary of State in 2002, but lost. In 2011, Skip returned to the public arena, as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced Hubert “Skip” Humphrey III to head the Office Of Older Americans.
And Jesse Ventura? You can find out all you want here: http://www.ora.tv/offthegrid