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Gary Johnson is looking more like a presidential candidate every day. The former New Mexico governor has now visited 22 states, appeared on a multitude of radio and TV talk shows and was included in the most recent GOP presidential poll.
That poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling and had five choices: Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and Gary Johnson.
Gov. Johnson had the lowest name recognition but still did better against President Barack Obama than the other four did. GOP leaders are beginning to sit up and take note.
Several months ago, Johnson founded a non-profit called Our American Initiative to promote his ideas. Because of his non-profit’s tax status, Johnson can’t announce for the presidency but he has done just about everything else.
Two Web sites have now been set up by others to encourage Johnson to run for president. The Web sites are attracting considerable interest from Libertarians and Ron Paul Republicans.
How far can Johnson expand that base? Many 2008 supporters of Rep. Ron Paul, a Republican congressman from Texas, think Johnson has what it takes to go farther. Paul did a fantastic job raising money over the Internet but had trouble taking advantage of it.
Those jumping on the Johnson bandwagon see him as being much more of a fighter. Having been a governor also makes a difference to many because it means proven administrative experience. And Johnson has much to sell based on his eight years as governor.
But Johnson will be hurt within the Republican Party because of some of his libertarian beliefs. Opposition to the war on drugs is his biggest problem. Remember, Johnson did not win either of his two election victories in New Mexico while supporting drug legalization.
Johnson took that stand soon after his second victory. That was followed by close to four years of turmoil in the state GOP as Republicans chose sides concerning Johnson’s attempts to push drug bills through the Legislature. Gov. Johnson gradually scaled back his position on drug legalization to one supporting the decriminalization of Marijuana. That is where he stands now
Nationally, the attitude about drugs and the continued war on them has gradually changed Some of that change has been brought about by economics and notions about legalizing marijuana and then taxing it.
Also hurting Johnson with conservatives he needs to attract is his desire to get out of the military wars we are in. He might pick up some votes from the peace movement but his opposition to war is mainly its tremendous expense. Johnson’s pro-choice stance will hurt him with most Republicans although supporters note that as governor Johnson consistently supported pro-life legislation. And Johnson’s view that people should be able to live where they want is scary to many in today’s anti-immigrant atmosphere.
But any group that truly wants to see less government spending has a proven champion in Johnson. He did it in New Mexico, mainly with his veto pen, and can do it on the federal level even with a Democratic Congress.
The Tea Party movement likes him for that reason but Sarah Palin may be even more attractive to them.
Johnson could have the Libertarian Party presidential nomination for the asking but, like Ron Paul, he knows the time has not yet come for a minor party to win. So he continues to run as a conservative with libertarian leanings rather than what he really is -- a libertarian with conservative leanings.
Libertarians believe in a much more limited government than conservatives do. Johnson sees a little more need for government than libertarians do.
Gary Johnson is seen by many Libertarians as the ideological successor to Ron Paul. While it is true Paul never has gotten far, he blazed a trail that should make it easier for those who follow.