Presidential hopeful Gary Johnson, Libertarian from New Mexico, attempts to woo votersJune 19, 2012Posted in Blog, News
By Lynn Bartels
The Denver Post
Presidential hopeful Gary Johnson’s message to voters is that he’s better on civil-libertarian issues than Democrat Barack Obama and better on dollars-and-cents issues than Republican Mitt Romney.
In the West, where several states will be crucial in determining who wins in November, Johnson, running on the Libertarian ticket, is an attractive conveyer of that message.
The erstwhile Republican served two terms as governor of New Mexico, a state where he’s polling at 12 percent.
He’s a strong advocate of state’s rights.
And as an added edge in Colorado, he has raced eight times in the Leadville Trail 100 mountain-bike race and has a long string of extreme-athlete bona fides.
Johnson’s strengths introduce an interesting dynamic: If the presidential race in Colorado is as close as some pundits predict, Johnson could end up being compared with third-party candidates Ralph Nader in 2000 and Ross Perot in 1992, viewed as spoilers in those presidential races.
Which party would likely benefit from a Johnson surge?
During a campaign swing through Colorado — where he marched in the gay-rights PrideFest on Sunday and spoke in favor of a ballot measure to regulate marijuana like alcohol Monday — Johnson downplayed such speculation.
“I’ve never viewed myself as a spoiler because I believe I’m going to take equally from both sides,” Johnson said just before a news conference at a Denver medical-marijuana business.
“Mitt Romney talks about balancing the budget, but he talks about growing the military and holding Medicaid harmless. Well, I did finish second-grade math, and it doesn’t add up,” Johnson said. “I want to repeal the Patriot Act. I want to end the drug war. I’m better than President Obama on civil liberties.”
Johnson ran for the GOP nomination for president before ending his sputtering campaign in December.
He’s wooing voters unhappy with Obama and Romney, but he also believes that his stance on getting out of Afghanistan and reducing the national debt has a chance of attracting supporters who backed GOP presidential hopeful Ron Paul.
That would mean taking votes Romney needs.
But Denver political consultant Floyd Ciruli said neither Romney’s nor Obama’s campaigns should be worried.
“By and large, the Libertarian Party brings almost nothing to the table other than ballot access,” Ciruli said. “The individual would have to be a celebrity or be independently wealthy or have an issue that is just raging with the people.”
In Colorado — where the party was born — Libertarians make up less than 1 percent of active voters. The party’s presidential candidate captured less than 1 percent of the national vote in 2008.
Johnson made international news when as governor he supported legalizing marijuana, and at the Groundswell Cannabis Boutique on Monday, he talked about America’s unsuccessful war on drugs.
He urged the Obama administration to stop “meddling in the affairs of Colorado.”
“I am not going to spend federal resources cracking down on medical-marijuana facilities in states where the legislatures or citizens in those states voted to have these facilities,” he said.
Johnson also offered his support for Amendment 64, a November ballot measure that would let voters decide whether to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
“But I am on the stump for a number of reasons that go beyond marijuana,” Johnson said, noting that the common thread in his campaign is freedom and individual liberty.
If he were allowed to debate on the same stage as Romney and Obama, Johnson said, “I think there’s a real possibility of winning.”
“If I do end up in the spoiler role, that’s more attention to the issues then,” he said.