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Gary Johnson to bolt GOP for Libertarians. Will his candidacy matter?

The planned move by Republican candidate Gary Johnson to seek the Libertarian nomination has been the topic of speculation for weeks. Would his third-party candidacy hurt the GOP?

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Republican presidential candidate, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson speaks during an interview on Dec. 12, in the lobby of a Hampton Inn and Suites in Clearwater, Fla.

Jim Damaske/St. Petersburg Times/AP

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With Republican voters barely noticing Gary Johnson’s run for presidency, the former New Mexico governor is now pinning his hopes on a bid for the Libertarian nomination.

He’s expected to announce the switch officially on Dec. 28, Politico first reported Tuesday night.

But it’s been a subject of speculation for weeks, especially since Mr. Johnson mentioned the possibility when he essentially gave up his efforts in New Hampshire in late November after biking 500 miles across the state and still garnering just 1 percent or less in the polls, according to Nashua.Patch.com.

Johnson has expressed frustration at the system governing inclusion in televised debates, which requires minimum poll or fund-raising results. He’s only appeared in two of the GOP debates.

Johnson’s news is yet another trigger for speculation about the possible “spoiler” effect that one or more third-party candidates could have on the election in November.

Historically, Libertarian candidates haven’t made enough of a dent to spoil the chances of a major-party candidate, but they tend to “disproportionately hurt Republicans,” says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

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