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: