12-2 A new slant on Gary Johnson
SANTA FE – A recent article in "Outside" magazine provides some new insights into what makes former Gov. Gary Johnson tick and what keeps his presidential campaign from ticking.
"Outside" is an international outdoors magazine headquartered in Santa Fe. It celebrates the sort of life that Gary Johnson lives. So who better to get an insight into Johnson and why he can't get anywhere on the national political scene than a contributing editor from "Outside" magazine?
Why is Johnson not succeeding in this political endeavor as he has in so many other facets of his life? The article didn't say this in so many words but it helped me remember a thought I had formed in my mind years ago and then forgotten.
Gary Johnson excels at individual endeavors. He is not a team sports kind of guy. And to be successful in politics, a candidate cannot go it alone. He needs to be one of the boys and acceptable to the party faithful.
Nick Heil, the interviewer for the magazine, notes that Johnson is a person who establishes outrageously ambitious athletic goals for himself and then sets out to methodically accomplish them. In the process he has become what Heil calls a world-class adventure athlete.
The character traits associated with his accomplishments – grit, strength, courage and tenacity – are what people would like to see in any leader. But, he says, Johnson doesn't make good use of that information.
Johnson doesn't talk about what makes him a world-class adventurer. He would prefer to sell his libertarian ideas, rather than toot his own horn some of the time.
Heil asked Johnson if he has considered hiring a media coach. Johnson answered that what people would hear would not be him. It would be someone's idea of who he should be.
Johnson wants to come across as a problem solver – someone who could turn a handyman business into a million-dollar operation. He admits he isn't good at the showy stuff but he is very good at doing what he sets out to do.
That is why Johnson is so frustrated about his inability to crack into the Republican field of candidates that get invitations to the numerous debates being held. Without those debates, he can't make any headway toward his goal.
When he ran for governor of New Mexico in 1994, Johnson was an unknown. But the state was small and so was the field of candidates. His opposition was Richard Cheney, a legislative leader; John Dendahl, a businessman and former Gov. Dave Cargo.
As it turned out, the odd man out of that field was Cargo. He was well known but GOP leaders knew "Lonesome Dave" wouldn't play ball with them. He was a loner, just like Johnson.
By investing $500,000 of his own money, Johnson won the primary election. His general election opponent was then-Gov. Bruce King, who was considerably weakened by having to run against both of his former lieutenant governors.
Johnson's Democratic opponent for reelection was Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez. Johnson isn't known as a great debater but he agreed to debate Chavez, a trial lawyer, throughout the state. Johnson did well enough to handily win reelection.
Johnson faces a much tougher situation now. If any other Republican candidate were to be included in the debates, it almost certainly would be Johnson. But he keeps barely losing out. One problem is that television networks usually leave his name off the ballot in their polling.
So the Republican Party isn't completely to blame. Party officials say over 20 candidates have filed for president, some of whom are former governors or members of Congress.
But Johnson is disillusioned. Some of the candidates included in the debates aren't polling any better than he is. He is talking about leaving the Republican Party and seeking the Libertarian nomination.
National Libertarian officials were very high on Johnson when he was governor back in 2000. But now, even that would be a fight.