WASHINGTON — The 2016 election has long been billed as “Hillary vs. Trump.”

Hillary Clinton has been the clear favorite to win the Democratic nomination for well over a year, and Donald Trump surprised many by overtaking a crowded stage of Republican nominees to earn the GOP nomination. For months, it’s been between those two candidates.

Recently, however, third-party candidates have gained some traction. Jill Stein, of the Green Party, is being polled at roughly 3-4 percent, while Libertarian Gary Johnson is making a run at the 15 percent needed to participate in the general election debates. According to RealClearPolitics, he’s polling at 8.2 percent, as of Monday morning, and several outlets have him at 9 percent or higher.

In a move that could add to his momentum, one of the biggest newspapers in Virginia has publicly endorsed Johnson for president. The Richmond Times-Dispatch on Sunday officially endorsed the Libertarian ticket — Johnson along with Bill Weld as the presumptive vice president — with an added note that neither of the major-party candidates are worthy of the presidency.

“Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton meets the fundamental moral and professional standards we have every right to expect of an American president,” the endorsement reads. “Fortunately, there is a reasonable — and formidable — alternative.”

The endorsement comes after Johnson met with the editorial board of the newspaper (see video in link above).

The paper is traditionally conservative, and it has endorsed a GOP candidate in each of the past nine elections, dating back to Ronald Reagan in 1980.

It is the first major newspaper to endorse Johnson, but other influential figures have come out in support of him. Virginia Republican congressman Scott Rigell publicly endorsed the Libertarian ticket in early August.

In late July, Marvin Bush — brother of Jeb and George W., and son of George H.W. — called into 106.7 The Fan and ripped Trump and Clinton, then proceeded to lend his support to Johnson and Weld.

“I have a few of my close friends who say, look you’re just giving your vote to Trump,” the youngest Bush son said. “I don’t necessarily buy it. First of all, I want to have a conscience. I want honest leadership. I want proven, effective people running this country and so, I want to be able to go to bed at night. And so I don’t really care about that.”

Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, and Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts, are set to hold an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit on Tuesday.

The goal in that decision is evidently to appeal to a younger demographic, something that could prove useful in coming elections. This late-rising campaign by Johnson and Weld is considered more of a play to the future, as this is among the most traction a third-party candidate has gotten in decades.

Johnson’s policies, which are listed on his website, can perhaps be best described as socially liberal and fiscally conservative.

He declares himself personally averse to abortion, but he states it is ultimately the choice of the woman in question, as well as her family, adding that government should not have the right to decide what a woman does with her body.

Johnson is in favor of ending the drug war, which he calls “an expensive failure.” He is in favor of allowing states to legalize marijuana, and he wants to shift the focus of treating drug addiction as a disease, not a crime.

He wants to enact term limits on all government representatives, in hopes that it will help bring an end to strict partisan voting.

“Whether it’s foreign policy, taxes, civil rights, or any other issue — Democrats and Republicans alike cannot take positions on behalf of their constituency because partisan campaign rhetoric trumps the pursuit of practical policy,” his website reads.

His tax policies are available here, but ultimately he wishes to simplify the tax codes and reduce special interest loopholes. He also wants to change how taxes are issued — essentially, he wants to tax spending, not earning.

It is still highly unlikely that Johnson will make a serious run for the presidency. With the Times-Dispatch endorsement, he is thrust a bit more into the national spotlight, and he could garner some momentum from it, possibly enough to earn a spot in the national debates, which begin at the end of this month.

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