Third Party Strategies
Gary Johnson, the presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party for whom I had the pleasure of voting this morning, has been pushing the idea that one should vote for him in order to get the party's total to 5%. Doing so would result in both increased visibility for his party and some legal advantages in the next election.
If that is his objective, where should he be campaigning? The chief argument used to persuade libertarians not to vote for him is that a vote for him is a vote for Obama (according to Romney supporters) or Romney (according to Obama supporters). That makes some sense for a voter in a swing state such as Ohio, although even there the chance that one vote will determine who wins the election is probably under one in a million. But it makes no sense in California, where I live. The only way Romney is going to carry California is in a Republican landslide—in which case he won't need it.
It should therefor be easier for Gary Johnson to persuade people to vote for him in California than in Ohio, especially libertarians but also non-libertarians critical of the War on Drugs, aggressive foreign policy, continued deficit spending, or other policies supported by both of the major party candidates. If his objective is getting as many votes as possible, he should focus his campaign on one party states—one party Republican states might be an even better bet than California, since they are likely to contain more potential supporters.
My impression from news stories is that that is not what he is doing. He is campaigning in both Colorado and Ohio, currently regarded as battleground states, and apparently polling well in both. Campaigning in Colorado might be justified by the tie-in with a ballot issue on legalized marijuana, but it is hard to see how he has any obvious advantages in Ohio.
Which suggests that, despite talk of aiming for 5%, he is really following a different approach. His chance of actually getting 5% of the popular vote is low. His odds of getting enough votes in one or more states to convince the losing party that they would have won if only those voters had voted for him are much higher—which is a reason for them to look for libertarian issues that they could support in the future. The way to maximize the chance of that happening is by focusing his efforts on states where the vote is expected to be close, such as Ohio. I suspect that is what he is doing.
After the election I may ask him.