Inside the Capitol

Friday, May 11, 2012

5-16 Run Gary Run

51612 Big J

SANTA FE – If Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson can catch a break in the next few weeks, he could shake things up big time and have a lot of fun doing it.
We can figure Johnson will not have to be listening to his party establishment telling him what he has to say. He won't have high-paid advisers walking back statements or explaining what Johnson really meant.
The libertarian philosophy is a consistent one and Johnson always has been in step with the philosophy. Essentially people and businesses should have the liberty to do what they want as long as it doesn't hurt others. And if they mess up their lives while doing their thing, they have a personal responsibility to fix the problem. Government isn't going to help.
It's really very simple. It involves a lot of tolerance of people's differences and a lot of toughness about personal consequences. It means being fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Maybe that doesn't seem to fit but if Libertarians had a vote for every time I have heard people describe their personal philosophy that way, they would be a large and powerful party.
Libertarians have mastered one part of our political system quite well. They usually qualify their presidential candidate on all 50 state ballots.
But they're not good at raising money. Unlike Democrats and Republicans, they have little influence to sell. I realize that is not why people donate to candidates, but it does seem to help. Obtaining federal election funds would be a huge help and that could happen soon.
If Johnson were able to score five percent of the vote in November, it would help the party tremendously and make the 2016 picture much rosier. But 1.1 percent is the best a Libertarian presidential candidate has ever been able to do.
The only other time Libertarians ran an experienced politician for office, it was U.S. Rep. Bob Barr. He only garnered 0.4 percent of the nationwide vote. But Barr was controversial and abrasive. Gary Johnson is a much nicer guy. He treats his opponents with respect and does not run negative campaigns.
The challenge for Johnson now is to hit 15 percent in some national polls. His big hurdle there is to be included in the polls. Last year, Johnson scored two percent in some national Republican polls, which should have been enough to get him on stage, but then the polls quit listing him.
Gary Johnson must somehow crack the mainstream media, left and right, in order to get into the debates. Both sides seem to be afraid of him. That includes the major polling firms. Johnson can make the presidential race much more interesting if he is given the opportunity.
Occasionally third party candidates do break through. Ross Perot did it in 1992 with 16 percent of the vote. And most notably, Teddy Roosevelt, running on the Bull Moose Party ticket in 1912, finished second with 27 percent of the vote, beating Republican incumbent William Howard Taft. Democrat Woodrow Wilson won that race.
In polls that do include Johnson, he currently is running between 6 and 9 percent. If he can get some decent news coverage, that figure could go up. He is now handling questions very deftly and makes for a good interview.
How is Johnson doing in his home state? Last fall, he finished first among Republican candidates with 23 percent of the vote. He hopes to take New Mexico again in November. It will be difficult. By then supporters of the two major party candidates will have become so polarized, they won't want to risk throwing their vote to a third party candidate.
For now, Johnson is visiting state conventions and town halls preaching a message of minimum government and maximum freedom. His attitude about winning it all still is high. He says he and his fiancé are looking forward to a White House wedding.


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