Gary Johnson's average 1-to-2 percent draw in New Hampshire polls could make him a spoiler for Mitt Romney in the neck-and-neck Granite State race -- but the Libertarian Party candidate sees himself as another Ralph Nader for President Obama in some key western swing states.
"I hope I'm a spoiler for both of them," the former New Mexico governor told the Herald. "I do have a sense in New Hampshire and I do have a sense in many states that I could have an impact."
Recent polls show a razor-thin margin between the presidential candidates in New Hampshire, with a Rasmussen Poll on Tuesday showing Romney with a 2-point lead and 1 percent of voters going to other candidates like Johnson.
"They should be worried," said Suffolk University pollster David Paleologos of Romney and Obama. "If it's an even race or a 1-point race then it definitely matters and you've got the Nader effect."
Nader, the Green Party nominee, played a huge role in the 2000 race in Florida, where many believe his 97,421 votes ensured Al Gore's narrow defeat. Johnson isn't showing the same nationwide popularity as Nader, said pollster John Zogby, but in a tight race any votes could shift the balance.
"Gary Johnson doesn't have to get a lot of votes to have a huge impact in the swing states, and New Hampshire is one of them," Zogby said. "If you're talking about razor-thin states, anything can have an impact."
Johnson believes he could tip the scales against Obama in tight races in swing states such as Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.
At the end of the day, Johnson said, "I think I end up taking votes from Romney and Obama both."
Zogby and Paleologos see Johnson posing a clear and present danger to Romney in the Granite State. "What I'm showing is that he is taking votes 3-to-1 from Romney," Zogby said.
Added Paleologos: "The Obama team should be pumping up Gary Johnson so that more votes will be siphoned away from Romney and the Romney team should be doing direct outreach to supporters they identify."
But Mike Dennehy, a Republican consultant in New Hampshire who worked for former GOP nominee John McCain, said tracking down Johnson supporters may not be worth the trouble to either candidate -- especially with bigger states like Ohio and Florida still in play.
"When someone's grabbing 10,000 to 15,000 votes," Dennehy said, "you can't always take the time to identify those individuals. It's a costly endeavor."
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