Polls show booming Libertarian support in several Senate races could keep GOP in power

Chuck Schumer could lose his bid to become Senate Majority Leader — to a pizza delivery man.

Earlier this year, it appeared Democrats were well on their way to taking back the majority in the Senate.

Republicans were defending 24 seats, to the Democrats’ 10, and the GOP trailed in many of them.

With the Republican presidential nominee struggling, it appeared Democrats would coast to a comfortable majority.

The playing field is still heavily tilted to Democrats, and the GOP presidential ticket is still spinning its wheels – but something changed.

Republican Senate candidates began to pull well ahead of their Democrat challengers, and it appears booming support for Libertarians is playing a major role.

Democrat political analyst Ridgely Knapp identified the problem in an eye-opening Twitter post:

Interesting Senate polls by @ppppolls re: @LPNational Sen candidates

-Stanton at 9 in #FLSen

-Haugh at 6 in #NCSen

-Clifford at 9 in #PASen

Knapp is referring to numbers from Public Policy Polling.  PPP is a Democrat firm, but one known for accuracy.

Democrats were once favored to win all three of those races.  They now trail in all three.

In Florida, Paul Stanton’s nine percent more than covers the average 6.1 percent lead of Republican Senator Marco Rubio.

In North Carolina, well-known Libertarian and 53-year-old pizza delivery man Sean Haugh’s six percent is keeping the race at a virtual tie.

Democrat Deborah Ross leads by an average of only one percent, though it may be skewed by a nine percent lead in a poll with notorious inaccuracy.

In Pennsylvania, once-doomed Republican Senator Pat Toomey is within one percent of troubled Democrat Katy McGinty, whose support is being drained by Libertarian Edward Clifford’s nine percent showing.

And while 100% pro-gun and anti-tax Libertarians were once considered to be drains on Republican support, endless war and warrantless spying under the Obama administration has drawn many Democrats to support the party – to the point where Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson is drawing more votes from Democrats than Republicans.

“The majority of pollsters (12) have Clinton’s margin over Trump shrinking when at least one third-party candidate is included. The difference in margins, however, varies among pollsters, and a few, such as Ipsos, have Clinton’s lead rising by the tiniest of bits when at least Johnson is included. Overall, including third-party candidates, takes about 1 percentage point away from Clinton’s margin, on average,” The New York Times’ polling divison reports.

We’ve seen this before.

In the 2013 race for governor of Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe beat Republican Ken Cuccinelli by 2 percentage points, 48 percent to 46 percent. Libertarian Robert Sarvis pulled almost 7 percent.

Exit polls showed that Sarvis actually gave Cuccinelli a fighting chance: “An exit poll of Sarvis voters showed that they would have voted for McAuliffe by a two-to-one margin over Cucinelli,” Reason magazine reported in 2014.

That defies conventional political wisdom, which believes the Libertarian Party opposition to any increased government — and calls to eliminate nearly all, if not all, of the federal government — does not appeal to moderate or liberal voters.

But the hard data, in the form of polls and vote counts, shows the Libertarian Party is slowly but steadily increasing its appeal and vote totals – driven largely now by voter disgust with Democrats.

And it appears the voter dissatisfaction driving that phenomenon at the top of the ticket is trickling down to Senate races, where Democrats’ odds of a takeover are declining as the Libertarian vote rises.

If you don’t believe that, just ask an increasingly angry Chuck Schumer.