November 22, 2009
Gary Johnson for president?

The two term governor of New Mexico (1995-2002) appears to be taking the early steps in a long-shot presidential bid.

As governor, Johnson set a record for most bills vetoed, and earned a reputation as the most libertarian governor in the country. A Johnson campaign would focus on runaway government spending and taxes. Could Johnson win the GOP nomination, or even become a player in the primaries?

Pluses:
- Compelling life story (started as a handyman, eventually built New Mexico's largest construction business, which he sold in 1999; has climbed Mt. Everest, completing the hike with a broken leg)
- Never part of Washington scene; executive experience; out of politics since 2002 means no Bush taint, and no controversial votes over last decade.
- Twice won landslide victories in New Mexico, a state with a Democratic tilt. Beat the incumbent Democrat by 10 points the first time out.
- My theory - after the stress of impeachment, the 2000 election, and a pair of crusading presidencies (Bush abroad, Obama at home), people will want a common sense, libertarian approach to government - effective government, no great new initiatives, getting the fiscal house back in order.

Minuses:
- No name recognition
- Unproven as a fundraiser. Johnson self-funded his first run for office and much of his second. But he's not a Mitt Romney, capable of dropping $100 million into a presidential race.
- The big killer - during his second term, Johnson came out against the war on drugs and in favor of legalization and decriminalization.

Johnson offers libertarian voters a new, improved version of Ron Paul. He's got executive experience with proven accomplishments, not a bunch of protest votes; though an "aw shucks" type of speaker, he is better spoken than Dr. Paul; he is better focused, not as likely to drift off into obscure theory or second tier issues; the political climate will be better for an anti-war Republican.

There is already a grassroots rumbling starting to build for Johnson, coming from many of the same folks who had such enthusiasm for Paul. The question is whether Johnson can do what Congressman Paul could not - build on that enthusiastic base to appeal to a broader section of the GOP electorate. That will require not scaring the middle class on the drug issue.

A few links - all of these sites are unofficial, as Johnson has not announced his candidacy:

Johnson for America
Gary Johnson 2012
Johnson for President Facebook Group
"America's Most Dangerous Politician" - a Reason Magazine profile from 2001.

Posted by Brad Smith at 09:13 AM in Politics

The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it. -Adam Smith

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