Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is starting to hurt Donald Trump’s campaign in Michigan — and Republican leaders know it.
Johnson, a former Republican governor of New Mexico, is cutting into Trump’s potential pool of voters in a four-way race with Democrat Hillary Clinton and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, according to a new poll conducted Tuesday and Wednesday for The Detroit News and WDIV-TV.
The survey of 600 likely voters found statewide support for Johnson at 9 percent, while Trump trailed Clinton by seven percentage points, 42 percent to 35 percent.
But within Johnson’s slice of the electorate, he captured support from 13 percent of male voters — the core of Trump’s support — and nearly 21 percent of voters in the Republican stronghold of west Michigan.
One in six voters younger than 40 said they plan to vote for Johnson.
Pollster Richard Czuba said some Johnson supporters fit into a profile of independent-minded, Republican-leaning male voters under 40 who are educated and attend church.
“Trump should be winning some of these guys back, but they won’t go for Trump,” said Czuba, president of the Glengariff Group Inc.
Since The News and WDIV last surveyed the presidential race in early August, Johnson’s support among voters who lean Republican inched up from 15.8 percent to 18 percent.
About 11 percent of voters who identify as strong Republicans said this week they are supporting Johnson, up from 9 percent in the July 30-Aug. 1 poll. About 16 percent of voters who attend church at least once a month support Johnson, according to the poll.
Ronna Romney McDaniel, chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, said she hopes Republicans “flirting” with voting for Johnson will think twice after he struggled to name a single foreign leader he admires during a Wednesday night interview on MSNBC.
Johnson called it an “Aleppo moment,” a reference to his Sept. 8 appearance on MSNBC in which he didn’t recognize the name of the war-torn city of Aleppo, Syria.
“I think it’s very clear he’s not fit to lead our country with national security being such a huge issue,” McDaniel said.
When Michigan voters were asked to choose between Clinton and Trump in a two-way race, 37 percent of Johnson’s supporters said they would side with Trump, while 25 percent moved into Clinton’s column.
“The rest were just like, ‘No way, we’re not going for this,’” Czuba said.
Matt Bronkema, 33, of Grand Rapids participated in the poll and said he is supporting Johnson after backing Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries against Clinton.
“It’s not a take-your-turn kind of thing, it’s whoever is best for the people,” said Bronkema, a commercial roofer.
Ramona Paredes, a Democrat from Waterford, said she considered Johnson’s candidacy until seeing him fumble basic foreign policy question on television. Now she is sticking with Clinton.
“He couldn’t name any leader that he liked from a foreign country,” Paredes said. “Johnson doesn’t know much about anything.”