Election Factor to Consider? New Libertarian Nominee Gary Johnson Swipes Hard at Romney and Republicans

Is there a new factor to pencil in when analyzing the upcoming 2012 Presidential election? Third parties in America have tended to boil down to Quixotic ventures because the American political system is so stacked — rigged, actually — against them. But Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson just got the Libertarian Party’s nomination — and he has come out swinging at the Republican Party and Mitt Romney over the campaign’s handling of a foreign policy spokesman who was allowed to quit after being blasted by the Republicans’ far right:

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson officially became the Libertarian Party’s nominee for President on Saturday with 70 percent of the vote, and one of his first acts as an official candidate was to issue a strong indictment of the Republicans for the situation surrounding Mitt Romney’s gay former foreign policy spokesman.

“I believe the majority of americans are fiscally responsible and socially tolerant,” Johnson told BuzzFeed in a phone interview. “I believe the majority of Americans could care less about whether or not there is a gay individual working in the Romney campaign.” Romney’s newly hired foreign policy spokesman Richard Grenell was openly gay, a fact that raised the ire of social conservatives, whose reaction resulted in Grenell’s leaving the campaign.

“It speaks volumes to the intolerance that continues to be present in the Republican Party,” Johnson said. He said he doesn’t attach that intolerance to the majority of Republicans but to “the activists driving that agenda.”

“That intolerance is why the world vilifies Republicans,” Johnson continued. “It’s why I have never worn a Republican t-shirt in my life. There is a certain Republican dogma I just cannot defend. Homophobia is one of those issues.”

The Romney campaign tried to persuade Grenell to stay after criticism both of his intemperate tweets and his sexuality, and Romney’s aides — who knew Grenell was gay when they hired him — heatedly deny conservative attacks marginalized him internally.

Johnson said the only reason he’s never been a registered Libertarian is because “I have a notion of governing and winning,” and “I have a lot of Republican friends who have just had it with the Republican Party.”

I need to repeat what I have now said in several posts:

  • I’ve been on a national car tour in my other incarnation since Sept 4 (only four weeks at home) and have meet MANY people who were Republicans or consider themselves moderate Republicans or Republicans on fiscal matters. They are all very upset with the direction of the GOP.
  • The Republican Party more than ever seems to be downsizing its political tent. Fair enough.
  • But what groups are going to replace all these other groups (gays, Latinos, moderate Republicans, conservative Republicans who believe they can work with the other side, women) that are being chased away from the GOP tent or, at the very least, will not vote in as large numbers for the GOP since they are in some cases under attack?
  • Johnson could run a spirited campaign and get more press coverage that past Libertarian candidates. He’s a political pro who knows how the political — and media — games are played.

    His Buzzfeed interview will likely be a tip off to the cable networks that he’d be an interesting “get” for some of their shows (don’t expect Sean Hannity to give him much time, though..).

    To be sure, he’ll be blasting the Democrats as well.

    But he’ll be a strong voice from a segment of the population that could have and should be voting Republican.

    I read this interview and could just see cable news bookers salivating as they anticipate with getting him on their programs on segments where they also have a spokesman for the Romney camp.

    UPDATE: Karl Dickey at Examiner.com:

    The Presidential nominee, Gary Johnson, is popular both within the Libertarian Party and also in his home state of New Mexico where he served two terms as their Republican Governor from 1995-2003. Johnson had been running under the Republican Party banner until late December, 2011 when he changed over to the Libertarian Party where he “came out of the closet”, as he put it during last night’s Presidential debate at the convention. Johnson is popular with most who know of where he stands on the issues and, as per polling, he is widely in step with the majority of Americans. The ACLU gave Johnson their highest rating of the 2012 Presidential field, well above Mitt Romney, Barack Obama and Ron Paul. 1980 Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate, Ed Clark said Johnson is “by far the best qualified candidate we have ever had to be President of the United States.” Gary Johnson is the only Presidential Candidate supporting the end to the War on Drugs, marriage equality, reducing impediments to free markets, repealing the Patriot Act, abolishing Homeland Security, slashing federal welfare and warfare spending.

    Johnson is polling nationally between 7-9% before today’s nomination and now that he is officially the Libertarian Party candidate for President, his next stated goal is to get at or above 15% in national polls. He will need to get more national media exposure in order to obtain that goal and he needs to reach that goal to be viable in the November election as that is the requirement for him to be included on stage during the October Presidential Debates with Barack Obama and the Republican nominee, widely believed to be Mitt Romney.

    And now the party has chosen its candidate for Veep:

    Former two-term New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson will be the Libertarian Party’s 2012 presidential nominee, and former judge James “Jim” Gray will be his running mate.

    Gray beat out Lee Wrights and one other candidate for the vice presidential nomination.

    Gray, a former Orange County Superior Court Judge who ran against Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) as a Libertarian in 2004, announced his candidacy last week. Shortly after, Johnson expressed his preference to have Gray as his running mate if he won the presidential nomination.

    “The process all along has been to find somebody that can articulate libertarian ideals and beliefs and I’ve thought all along that [Gray] would be a really solid pick,” Johnson told Reason last week. “He’s been through the fire and he will be one heartbeat from the presidency and I think he would be very capable of that.”

    Gray is a leading critic of the war on drugs, and supported California’s Prop 19.

    Some thoughts from Doug Mataconis (who as always makes a lot of sense):

    This is the second cycle in a row in which the LP has nominated a former Republican elected official as their Presidential candidate. In 2008, it was former Congressman Bob Barr, a selection that actually ended up causing some controversy inside the LP itself. Johnson is likely to be a far more popular choice largely because he’s a candidate that the party has been pursuing as a potential nominee ever since he served as Governor of New Mexico. Additionally, Johnson’s record as Governor was far more compatible with libertarian ideas than Barr’s record in Congress, although Barr had largely renounced much of that record by the time he ran for the LP nomination for years ago.

    I don’t operate under the belief that Johnson has any real chance of winning the election, and I honestly don’t think that he does either given his experience in electoral politics. Heck, his goal of 15% of the vote in a national polls is an incredibly high bar considering the fact that no Libertarian Party nominee has gotten above the roughly 1,000,000 votes that the Ed Clark/David Koch (yes, that David Koch) ticket got in the 1980 election, largely thanks to a national advertising campaign that Koch paid for out of his own pocket. At the same time, though, it’s encouraging to see the Libertarians actually nominating candidates with a real political resume, and the possibility of reaching out to groups dissatisfied with both candidates on issues like the drug war and same-sex marriage (Johnson supports same-sex marriage, Obama and Romney do not). Getting real attention for a campaign of ideas? Yea I’d be happy with that.