Libertarian Party Nominates Gary Johnson For Presidentby Doug Mataconis
The Libertarian Party held its convention over the weekend in Las Vegas and, as many had been expecting, overwhelmingly nominated former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson as their Presidential nominee:
Aside from the muscular gentleman in the slinky party skirt and halter top, a delegate wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and a prominent speaker sporting a powdered wig, it was a typical political convention.
And by the time the Libertarian National Convention concluded in Las Vegas on Saturday, party members had the man they hope can propel them to relevance in presidential politics.
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson won about 70 percent of the vote on more than 600 ballots, finishing well ahead of Libertarian newsletter founder Lee Wrights.
What it means is Johnson, a former Republican who served two terms as governor from 1995 to 2003, will carry the party’s torch in a campaign against Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Johnson says a “pie-in-the-sky” goal for himself and vice presidential candidate Jim Gray, an Orange County, Calif., Superior Court judge and outspoken critic of the war on drugs, is to generate enough support to qualify for debates on the same stage as Obama and Romney.
“If that happens, anything is possible,” Johnson said. “I don’t think either Obama or Romney are talking about solutions to the problems.”
He’s betting a swell of supporters for Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul will shift to the Libertarian candidates once Romney becomes the nominee.
“As much as I would like (Paul) to be the nominee, I don’t think that is going to happen,” Johnson said.
Johnson is right about that point, of course. Ron Paul is not going to be the Republican nominee, and even the apparent delegate wins his supporters are racking up at state party conventions in caucus states aren’t going to amount to much of anything in the end. So Paul’s supporters will have a choice, either they support Johnson, they become loyal Republicans and back Romney, or they stay home on Election Day. Johnson is obviously hoping they they choose the first option.
This is the second time in two election cycles that the Libertarian Party has nominated a former Republican elected official as their nominee. Last time, of course, it was former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr and while the results of his campaign were disappointing, Barr did end up getting more votes than any Libertarian Party Presidential nominee since Ed Clark got close to a million votes in 1980. Can Johnson get close to that? Conor Friedersdorf makes a good point in that regard:
A former governor of New Mexico, he was re-elected by that state’s voters, left office popular after two terms, and therefore has the most executive experience of any Libertarian Party presidential nominee. He can also cite the state he ran as evidence that nothing radical happens when he’s put in charge. An economic conservative and social liberal, he represents a new direction for a party that has long wrestled with its paleo-libertarian wing. And yet he too is certain to lose on Election Day, as third-party candidates in American presidential elections do. The question is whether he can match his party’s 1980 high-water mark and win 1 percent or more of the vote, and whether he might win even more in the key swing state of New Mexico, where voters already know and have cast ballots for him.
That would certainly make things interesting wouldn’t it? If Johnson ended up costing the GOP a pick-up in New Mexico, then maybe they’ll stop ignoring the libertarian vote for once.
To be realistic, though, the prospects for third-party candidates are never good and they’re unlikely to be much better. Perhaps the greatest role that Johnson can fulfill with this campaign is to become a strong and effective spokesperson for libertarian ideas around the nation, and to stand as proof that you can indeed by an ideological libertarian and govern effectively. That would be no small accomplishment.