Campaign Spot reader Michael writes in, having examined the claim of the missing Republican voters — the drop-off from McCain’s 2008 total to Romney’s 2012. Immediately after the election, many were left incredulous in response to the apparent news that Romney received 3 million fewer votes than McCain did.
As more and more states have counted their absentees and reported 100 percent of precincts, the numbers are less shocking. Michael points to Dave Leip’s Atlas of US Presidential Elections and calculates the drop off is now only 479,000.*
Most intriguingly, many of those missing McCain voters may have voted in 2012, but this time for the Libertarian party’s nominee, Gary Johnson.
From 2008 to 2012, those voting for the Democratic ticket dropped from 69.49 million to 63.16 million, a drop of 6.3 million.
From 2008 to 2012, those voting for the Republican ticket dropped from 59.95 million to 59.47 million, a drop of just over 479,000.
From 2008 to 2012, those voting for the Libertarian ticket increased from 523,433 to 1.22 million, a jump of just over 700,000.
(* UPDATE: The great Dave Wasserman offers a spreadsheet with numbers updated day by day. Obama is up to 63.8 million votes, Romney is up to 59.87 million votes. This would have Romney down only 120,000 from McCain’s vote total, while Obama is 5.69 million behind his 2008 total.)
The irony is that at least at first glance, the Romney-Ryan ticket would appear more appealing to libertarian-leaning voters than McCain-Palin: No author of a restrictive campaign-finance law atop the ticket, a more sustained focus on cutting government, a nominee who opposed the bailout of General Motors (and paid a dear price for that stand in key states), and certainly a less interventionist tone than McCain offered in 2012.
This is the sort of time where someone traditionally offers a “How the GOP Can Win Back the Libertarians” op-ed. (Note that the popular vote margin for Obama was 3.69 million, so the Libertarian vote did not make up the difference, just about a third of it.) But I suspect that if you voted Libertarian this cycle, you’re a pretty hard-core Libertarian, and unlikely to be won over by any half-measures the GOP might offer in the near future. Considering how there was little dispute that another four years of Obama would mean another four years of government growing bigger and taking a more active role in citizens’ lives, and how no one really thought Johnson would win, it would appear that the 1.22 million Libertarian voters were content to “send a message” with their votes . . . a message that will now be almost entirely ignored in Washington.
It’s their right; every vote has to be earned, and surely a Romney presidency would have offered its own disappointments to the Libertarian worldview. But it may be a continuing liability for the GOP that roughly 1 percent of the electorate believes strongly in limited government, but votes in a way that does not empower the GOP to do anything to limit that government.