A vote for Governor Gary Johnson has been described by both sides as a wasted vote, a protest vote, and a vote that will elect the candidate you fear the most. This oversimplification of our political process ignores the importance and reality of how the Electoral College actually works, and how a win for Gary Johnson even in a single state could upend the entire election.
One recent post-debate poll puts this reality into context. As reported by Nate Silver for FiveThirtyEight, in New Mexico, "[A] survey, from Research & Polling Inc. for the Albuquerque Journal, showed a competitive three-way matchup, with Clinton at 35 percent, Trump at 31 percent, and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson at 24 percent."
What the poll suggests, therefore, is that there is a plausibility that Johnson wins the state of New Mexico, and/or Alaska, Colorado, and Utah. In those states, he is polling at around 20%. If he focuses his financial resources and incredible volunteer network in one or more of these states, Johnson could win enough electoral votes to change the entire game.
A presidential candidate needs to win at least 270 of the Electoral College votes to win the election outright. If neither of the other candidates hits the 270 threshold, the election starts over, but this time, in the House of Representatives. And one thing we can count on, the Republican controlled House of Representatives doesn’t like Clinton. And they don’t like Trump.
At this point it is difficult to speculate what would happen next; however, it is clear that the importance of Gary Johnson will not go away just yet. While such a scenario continues to be a long shot, it has entered into the realm of plausibility and indicates that the public shouldn't rule Johnson out just yet.
Image Source: http://www.270towin.com/maps/jy8Wm