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How Rep. Justin Amash (L-Mich) Could Win the Presidency

Certainly a Long Shot but Possible

There are two ways Libertarian Representative Justin Amash could win the the Presidency.

Note I did not say: Win the ELECTION (with a majority of the popular vote).

No, I said win the Presidency.

The first scenario is for Amash to win say 60 million votes. As it would doubtful that either the Democrat (presumedly former VP Joseph Biden) or the incumbent GOP President Donald Trump would get enough turnout to out vote that number. Clinton received approximately 65 million votes to Trump’s 62 million votes. Amash probably would not need 60 million to win – maybe as little as 45 million could do it. (I am assuming 130 million votes and the Amash plurality would be light.)

The second scenario requires several things to happen but it is in one respect more realistic than a nationwide grind it out campaign.

Amash, assuming he wins the LP nomination, and that is far from certain, should campaign hard in these states (the number in parenthesis is the electoral vote):

  • Alaska (3)
  • Montana (3)
  • Nevada (6)
  • New Hampshire (4)
  • New Mexico (5)
  • North Dakota (3)
  • South Dakota (3)
  • Utah (6)

These states total 33 electoral votes. They are the most likely for a Libertarian to win. Alaska is one of the leading if not the leading state for LP candidates. One US Senate candidate actually came in second here. Montana has a solid LP party. Nevada is libertarian-minded with legal gambling and in some counties prostitution. New Hampshire has a libertarian cast to its politics although in recent elections, the state has tilted blue. New Mexico has, because of Gary Johnson, a strong LP organization. North and South Dakota had significant turnouts for Johnson in 2016 (6.3% in ND and 5.6% in SD). Utah is usually staunchly conservative but nearly a quarter of the votes were for third party candidates due to dissatisfaction with Trump.

If I helped run Amash’s campaign, I would run radio and TV ads and do personal appearances mainly in these states. I would also do some visiting to states like California and alas Virginia where it is likely one side is going to win the state. But that is to run up the popular vote total to make this scenario more plausible. (see this article from Prof. Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball on a 269-269 tie which would go to the House and the procedure in the House is the same as my scenario.) The GOP actually controls 26 state delegations and the Dem 22 with 2 ties (Pennsylvania and ironically for this scenario, Michigan are tied or likely to be tied after an special election.).

Suppose Rep. Amash won these 33 votes. Eighteen of those votes would come from the President and 15 from Biden (assuming the 2016 turnout). Ignoring faithless electors, that is 288 for Trump and 217 for Biden.

If we take away Pennsylvania (20) from Trump and give it to Biden, as I believe to be likely at this time, Trump is done to 268. But Biden only can get 237 votes and the election goes to the House of Representatives.

The new 2020 House elects the President and the new 2020 Senate elects the VP. It is somewhat possible for the houses of Congress to be divided by party. While it is by no means certain, the Senate should stay in GOP hands. The House votes for the President by state delegations. (The last time this happened was in 1824; Jackson got a plurality, Adams second and Secretary William Crawford [Crawford was Secretary of War immediately after the War of 1812 and was the incumbent Treasury Secretary. He was also a US Senator and a state court judge. Tell the truth, dear readers, who knew that – that wiseacre from Georgia not counting! I had to look it up.] from Georgia was third in the electoral vote.)

The House is limited to the top three electoral vote winners. (In 1824, Adams got the most votes by states thanks to help from Henry Clay, beating out Crawford, whose health was in question, and Jackson who the establishment did NOT want. President Adams, perhaps unwisely, chose Clay to be Secretary of State [he also asked Crawford to stay on in Treasury but the Georgian said no.] and the Jacksonians had an immediate issue for 1828, where he won a decisive victory against President Adams.)

So the vote would be 268 for Trump, 237 for Biden and 33 for Amash. If the two houses decided not to place a GOP President and Dem VP (Trump/Abrams?) or vice versa (Biden/Pence?) the House might decide to turn to a compromise: The Libertarian Justin Amash. (Not sure what the senate would do. They are also limited to the top three. This is way Amash should select Judge Gray for his VP – actually recommend him to the convention – as he would be the best LP choice. Amash could also go to either Gary Johnson or maybe long shot Ron Paul as well. I would think a GOP Senate would vote in Pence and a Dem upper chamber would vote Biden’s running mate.)

So the Libertarian Party, short on money and with little realistic chance of a plurality of the vote, could actually win the Presidency. Talk about interesting…

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

One Response to “How Rep. Justin Amash (L-Mich) Could Win the Presidency”


  1. […] an idea to campaign in five small states (where the LP has done well in the past [I wonder where Gray might have read that?]), help down ballot candidates and do ballot […]

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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