How Gary Johnson and Jill Stein helped elect Donald Trump

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Neither Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson nor the Green Party’s Jill Stein managed to make a dent in the Electoral College, but they did post a significant enough showing in several states arguably to help elect Donald Trump.

Trump won 290 Electoral College votes to 232 for Hillary Clinton, as of Wednesday evening, with Clinton topping him in the popular vote. But had the Democrats managed to capture the bulk of third-party voters in some of the closest contests — Wisconsin (10), Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16) and Florida (29) — Clinton would have defeated Trump by earning 307 Electoral College votes, enough to secure the presidency.

The entire scenario conjures up memories of Ralph Nader’s Green Party run in 2000. Nader’s share of the vote in that year’s razor-thin Florida contest was 1.63%, according to the final totals from the Federal Election Commission. Bush won the state by just .05%, which tipped the Electoral College in his favor. (Nader has for years denied his candidacy played a role in Bush’s 2000 victory.)

Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein will not participate in the first presidential debate, and their running mates will not be in the vice presidential debate, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Friday.

Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein will not participate in the first presidential debate, and their running mates will not be in the vice presidential debate, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Friday.

It’s impossible to know how an election could have gone under hypothetical scenarios, but the Johnson campaign regularly said they thought they were pulling support equally from would-be Trump supporters and would-be Clinton voters. Stein’s campaign, meanwhile, made a constant, explicit appeal to disenchanted Democrats and former supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

If Johnson and Stein weren’t in the race, it’s also possible many of their supporters may have stayed home. But if about half of Johnson’s supporters would have voted for Clinton over Trump, and if most of Stein’s supporters broke for the Democrats, the electoral map would have been decidedly different.

For what it’s worth, both Johnson and Stein have in repeated interviews with CNN taken offense at the notion they would spoil the race.

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Johnson said he hoped his candidacy would wipe out the two-party system and, in a recent MSNBC appearance, literally held his nose shut at the mention of Clinton and Trump. Stein said she would not “sleep well” in the event of a Clinton or Trump presidency and suggested Clinton would be more likely to start a nuclear war than the current president-elect.

However, Johnson’s running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, took a different tack. He defended Clinton regularly and argued Trump was a unique threat to the United States.

Here’s the breakdown of what might have been, based on available totals for the key states:

Florida (29 electoral votes)

Trump stood 119,770 votes ahead of Clinton, with 99% of the vote in Wednesday evening. The total support for Johnson and Stein was 270,026 votes — well more than double Trump’s margin of victory. CNN projected a Trump victory here.

If half of Johnson’s supporters and all of Stein’s supporters had voted Clinton, it would have flipped the state.

Michigan (16 electoral votes)

Trump stood 11,837 votes ahead of Clinton, with 96% of the vote in Wednesday evening. The total support for Johnson and Stein was 223,707 votes — almost 20 times more than the margin as of this writing. CNN has not yet projected a victory here.

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If half of Johnson’s supporters and all of Stein’s supporters had voted Clinton, it could have delivered a Democratic win here.

Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes)

Trump stood 68,236 votes ahead of Clinton, with 99% of the vote in Wednesday evening. The total support for Johnson and Stein was 191,565 — almost three times Trump’s margin of victory. CNN projected a Trump victory here.

If half of Johnson’s supporters and all of Stein’s supporters had voted Clinton, it would have flipped the state.

Wisconsin (10 electoral votes)

Trump stood 27,257 votes ahead of Clinton, with 95% of the vote in Wednesday evening. The total support for Johnson and Stein was 137,422 votes — about five times Trump’s margin of victory. CNN projected a Trump victory here.

If half of Johnson’s supporters and all of Stein’s supporters had voted Clinton, it would have flipped the state.