Former Governor Gary Johnson Announces Candidacy For President

The field of candidates for the GOP nomination for President got a little more palatable to libertarians today when former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson announced his candidacy for President at an event in New Hampshire:

Gary Johnson is running for president.

The former New Mexico governor — who favors legalizing marijuana — on Thursday skipped the step of an exploratory committee, saying bluntly on Twitter: “I am running for president.”

That coincided with a speech in front of the New Hampshire statehouse, which made Johnson the first Republican to launch an official presidential campaign. On his new campaign website, Johnson positions himself as “The People’s President,” laying out libertarian-leaning stances on deficit reduction, education, taxes and drug policy.

The campaign went live with a website almost immediately after Johnson began speaking this morning, and his Issues page will give you an idea of just how different Johnson is from most of the other likely candidates on the GOP side:

Gary’s track record speaks volumes.

He has been an outspoken advocate for efficient government, lower taxes, winning the war on drug abuse, protection of civil liberties, revitalization of the economy and promoting entrepreneurship and privatization.

As Governor of New Mexico, Johnson was known for his common-sense business approach to governing. He eliminated New Mexico’s budget deficit, cut the rate of growth in state government in half and privatized half of the state prisons.

Johnson isn’t likely to be the only libertarian-leaning Republican throwing his hat in the ring. It’s becoming rather apparent that Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who became an unlikely superstar during the 2008 campaign will throw his hat in the ring once again. If that happens, then Paul and Johnson would be essentially competing for the same voters and, as Slate’s David Weigel notes, Johnson would need to find a way to differentiate himself from Paul, who is not viewed very favorably by Republicans outside of his own followers.

Personally, I think Johnson is a better standard bearer for libertarian-leaning Republicans than Ron Paul for a whole host of  reasons. For one thing, he’s younger, which is no small thing when you’re talking about a Presidential campaign. While he was able to hold large rallies on college campuses across the country, Ron Paul didn’t seem to have much enthusiasm in 2008 for the kind of retail politics that you have to engage in when you’re running for President.

The other thing that differentiates Johnson from Paul is that Johnson doesn’t come with any baggage. The topic of Ron Paul’s support from extremist, racist, groups and the long history of the newsletter that he published in between his two stints in Congress were frequently discussed here during the 2008 campaign and they were, I think, one of the reasons that Paul wasn’t taken seriously outside of his energetic circle of supporters, many of whom behaved in a way that quite frankly was an embarrassment to the guy they were supporting. Johnson has none of that. Instead he has a successful business career and eight years as a Republican Governor in a state that, at the time, still leaned Democratic. He vetoed more bills than any other Governor. He came out in favor of marijuana legalization while he was in office. Heck, the guy climbed Mount Everest. That all makes for a compelling media story, all without the weird Ron Paul like baggage.

There’s no doubt that Johnson has an uphill fight ahead of him. His name recognition among likely Republican voters is in the teens, and his name hasn’t been included in most recent polls, although that’s likely to change now. However, he’s got a unique message and a solid record. Keep an eye on this guy.

Here’s the video of today’s announcement:

  • Brad Warbiany

    Thanks for posting this, Doug. Gary Johnson is probably the only GOP candidate that will actually make me interested in the 2012 election.

    I, too, think that he carries all of the positives of Ron Paul without the baggage.

  • Michael Merritt

    He just needs to promote his tackling of Everest. He’ll have the badass-liker vote down pat.

  • procopius

    If the weirdest thing you can keep necro’ing about Ron Paul is the omg-racist newsletters and obvious racist contribution-plants, you should check yourself into a mental program for programmed behavioral-response issues.

    Be Johnson great or not-so-great, it’s plain to see that you are the exact same person of 2008.

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  • Ken Fischetti


    Thank you for stating what we Libertarians must accept. As much as we admire Ron Paul for the courageous and consistent stands he has taken over the years, the “long history of the newsletter that he published in between his two stints in Congress” will become a major distraction and will discredit Libertarians. I don’t know if Gary Johnson is the answer but sadly, we Libertarians must explore options other than Ron Paul.

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  • Rachel Alburtis

    I have always liked the positions on government that Gov. Johnson took even when he was Governor of New Mexico. If this country fails to legalize marijuana, turn it loose so that it can be produced and used in many many ways and turn out all nonviolent marijuana prisoners, then we deserve to go down the pike hard and heavy. I will wholeheartedly support him or anyone else on this one issue. Get the word out and watch the people back hi.

  • trebuchet

    If Gary Johnson is able to be considered a ‘top-tier’ candidate by the news corporations, it will be because of the monumental battle Ron Paul won in the last cycle. This time, post tea-party, all of the ideas the good Dr. received scorn for expressing, are on the lips of all the candidates. Last time the reigning zeitgeist was “They hate us because we are rich and free! 911!” How far we’ve come!

    Johnson is currently left off of polls, being used to qualify him for debates. RP supporters remember this battle all too well. Johnson has to fight his way into national attention, through the gauntlet of the news corporations. RP has run that gauntlet. This time they’re covering him, and he has all the bonfides to justify the coverage, ten terms in Congress, chairman of a committee overseeing the fed, signature issues that have moved to the center of the debate.