Republicans Need Gary Johnson to Save the Senate

Nathan L. Gonzales June 30, 2016 · 9:05 AM EDT

On Sept. 26, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will face off in Dayton, Ohio, for what's anticipated to be the most-watched presidential debate in history. Republicans need Gary Johnson to be on the stage.  

Normally, both parties try to marginalize third-party candidates and keep them from getting publicity in order to prevent them from siphoning off supporters. But some Republicans just can’t vote for Trump (or Clinton) for president, yet vulnerable GOP Members need those voters to turn out for races down the ballot.

Considering Trump had a 28 percent negative rating among Republicans in the June 19-23 NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, there is a good chance some Republicans can’t stomach either presidential nominee.  

Johnson , a former Republican governor of New Mexico, could be a viable alternative for Republicans looking to voice their disapproval of both parties.  

“We don’t just need Republicans, we need independents who look like us,” according to one veteran GOP strategist.

One way to elevate Johnson’s profile is to be on the stage at Wright State University for the first debate, but he’ll need to meet the requirements from the Commission on Presidential Debates .  

“Under the 2016 criteria, in addition to being constitutionally eligible, candidates must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning a majority vote in the Electoral College, and have a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations' most recently publicly reported results at the time of the determination,” according to the commission’s website.  

As of Tuesday, Johnson was at 7.8 percent in the RealClearPolitics polling average in four-way ballot tests that included Trump, Clinton, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. But Johnson was at 10 percent in the new, June NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll .  

The Republican Party isn’t large enough for vulnerable GOP senators to stomach Republican voters staying home .  

If Republicans make up the same percentage of the vote as they did in the last presidential election, and all of those Republicans vote for their GOP senator, that will get Mark S. Kirk to 27 percent of the vote in Illinois. It will get Ron Johnson 32 percent in Wisconsin. Rob Portman will get 31 percent in Ohio, Patrick J. Toomey 35 percent in Pennsylvania, Richard Burr 33 percent in North Carolina, and Kelly Ayotte 27 percent in New Hampshire.  

Those vulnerable senators need to make up the rest of the ground to another term with a combination of Independents and Democrats, which won’t be an easy task with Trump hanging over the GOP brand.