Johnson Could Make The Libertarians Relevant
ORLANDO – Libertarians on Sunday selected former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson as their party’s presidential nominee, at their party convention in Orlando, Florida. Johnson was the party’s nominee in 2012 and once again won the position despite backlash from the party’s more radical Libertarian wing.
Johnson will team up with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, making what some political insiders see as the most powerful Libertarian ticket ever. Thanking the Libertarian delegates after his victory, Johnson played up his general election chances.
“At a minimum, I think we’re in the presidential debates,” Johnson said to cheers.
Those who don’t yet know him might like his style and his message. Johnson, who likes to sum up his version of the Libertarian message as simply “fiscally conservative and socially liberal,” also says his New Mexico experience has him prepared, if he wins, for governing as a Libertarian nationally with a possibly hostile Congress.
He would reduce domestic spending by eliminating the Internal Revenue Service, the Commerce and Education departments, the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Johnson’s stance on social issues, fall in line with most Libertarians, who generally support abortion rights, gun rights, same-sex marriage and drug legalization, saying people should be allowed to do anything that doesn’t hurt others. Libertarians say this year is as good a chance as they’ve had to make their way into the national spotlight.
Asked about specific strategies to attract Republicans this cycle, Johnson said defiantly: “If you believe we should deport 11 million illegal immigrants and build a fence across the border and believe we should kill the families of Muslim terrorists and bring back waterboarding or worse, if you believe free trade is about applying tariffs to incoming goods and services—then I’m not your guy.”
This may be the first time since Ross Perot, ran for President, in 1992, that a third-party candidate has a real shot at getting on stage with the Republican nominee Donald Trump and the likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the fall debates. Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, is already doing well in national polls, even before he got the nomination.
In polls that pitted Johnson against Trump and Clinton, Johnson got 10 percent from Fox News and 11 percent from a Monmouth poll. He also got 10 percent in a Morning Consult survey. To make the stage a third-party candidate must get at least 15 percent of the vote in five national polls, which are chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates.
With such high negatives from both Trump and Clinton a strong third party candidate such as Johnson will get a serious look from many voters. Many conservatives are unhappy with Trump’s receiving the nomination for the Republicans. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are still battling it out for the Democratic nomination.
But if the nomination goes to Clinton, many #BernieorBust supporters will be looking for a new nominee to support outside of the Democratic Party. Although Sanders and Johnson disagree on many issues, such as government size, they do line up more on many social issues.
Two Republicans on the Libertarian ticket might seem like a pure bid to peel off Republican #nevertrumps. Johnson made a video last month explicitly attacking Trump. In it he used the words “conservative values” to describe himself. Yet he also likes to appeal to Sanders fans, often mentioning how on the “iSideWith” site, this Libertarian found himself in 73 percent agreement with the democratic socialist, of course all on social and foreign policy matters, not economic ones.
Money might not be as big a problem this time around for Johnson. According to an exclusive report in this morning’s edition of The Daily Caller, cash could be coming from a powerful GOP donor. Billionaire businessman and philanthropist David Koch has pledged “tens of millions of dollars” to help bankroll the campaign of Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, according to a source within Johnson’s campaign.
There are other GOP mega donors who won’t be backing Trump and the key for Johnson is to find enough of them to get the cash he will need to fight against Trump and Clinton.
Sunday in his last meeting with the press before leaving Orlando Johnson added that he planned to take his campaign all the way to the White House. “We do have the opportunity to reach millions and millions of Americans,” he said. “I’ve never been involved in this without the notion of winning.”
Any chance of that happening will only come if he first makes the debate stage and that just might happen.