Gary Johnson launches Libertarian bid
'We are just fed up with the two party system,' Johnson said.
By EMILY SCHULTHEIS | 12/28/11 1:27 PM EST
Gary Johnson switched his registration to Libertarian and kicked off his campaign for the party’s nomination for president Wednesday at a news conference in Santa Fe, N.M.
“I’m doing this today because this is an agenda that I think resonates with most Americans, and it’s an agenda that’s not being addressed by either party,” Johnson said at an event in front of the state Capitol building he presided over for two terms as governor. “I think we have a unique opportunity in this country to actually fix the problems that face us all, but it’s not going to be business as usual.”
Johnson, who’s long been committed to the libertarian ideology, quit the Republican nomination race after failing to gain much traction. The candidate focused all his energy on his New Hampshire ground game, but didn’t move in the polls and didn’t qualify for all but two debates.
At the event, Johnson expressed his frustration with both major parties, particularly the Republican Party that threw little support behind his campaign.
“We are just fed up with the two-party system. The Democratic Party, I think, has turned their backs on gay rights, marriage equality, their anti-war base, their anti-drug war sentiment,” he said. “… Republicans are no longer the stewards of the pocketbook. Republicans are no longer good stewards of tax dollars.”
“I have been a Republican my entire life,” he said. “I don’t view this as leaving the Republican Party as much as the Republican Party has left me.”
His announcement Wednesday does not come as much of a surprise. News of the switch began trickling out earlier this month – POLITICO reported it on Dec. 20 – and Johnson’s campaign said last week that the candidate would make a major announcement at Wednesday’s news conference. He told POLITICO Wednesday afternoon that he started thinking about running as a Libertarian “months” ago.
“The notion was that gosh, the Republicans can still include me in these debates, they can stand up for me, and that was always in the background. Gee, might I actually get a chance here? And I never did.”
Johnson saved his strongest criticism for Republicans.
“I really had hoped to do this within the Republican Party. I got snubbed by the Republican Party I think because they didn’t want more than one messenger on stage,” he said, referring to fellow libertarian-leaning Ron Paul.
Libertarian Party Chairman Mark Hinkle also spoke at the conference, welcoming Johnson to the Libertarian Party. Hinkle noted that Johnson remained a dues-paying member of the party throughout his two terms as New Mexico’s governor.
“Don’t waste your vote,” he told the audience, urging them to vote for Libertarian candidates.
Johnson said that he’s confident he’ll gain more momentum and media attention with his new campaign.
“I think we’re gonna just assess the opportunities available and try and get the most bang for the buck, meaning I’m gonna be out on the road that I’d be able to speak to as many people as I possibly can,” he told POLITICO. “I’m optimistic that the attention picks up.”
Because of the widespread frustration with both major parties, Johnson said, he has a major opportunity to appeal to libertarian-leaning Republicans in particular.
“I really believe that the fastest-growing segment of the Republican Party are those that have a libertarian bent,” he said.
Still, Johnson said, there’s no guarantee he will be the Libertarian nominee.
“It’ll be competitive, it will be a debated process,” he said.
And as for the general election next year, Johnson told POLITICO that he has the potential to pick up a big portion of the electorate.
“That’s the pie in the sky notion, is that it would really be an equal draw from disenfranchised Republicans and Democrats,” he said.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1211/70906.html#ixzz1hskigTjd