Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is a longshot; still hopeful

07/06/12 Janelle Irwin
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This year’s presidential election is expected to be a close call between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Gary Johnson ended a four day tour of Florida today in Ybor City asking supporters to make sure their friends new they had another option.

Johnson started his presidential bid in the Republican primary but is now running as a Libertarian. Johnson said he agrees with both Republicans and Democrats on some issues and disagrees on others. One thing he hates is the federal healthcare law.

“I really think this is going to be the torpedo in the sinking ship and I do mean the amount of money that this is going to cost. I think it’s going to inordinately fall on young people. The fact that this is a system that relies on a healthy segment of the population paying for an unhealthy segment and really that, as a group, our young people…are going to have to pay this tax or penalty of $3,000.”

The idea is to have as little government as possible. Johnson joked to the crowd of about 30 supporters that he should wear a button with the words “I’m pro-choice on everything” written on it. The Gary Johnson campaign is banking on reaching voters on both sides of the aisle to gain momentum in this election cycle.

“People really, genuinely are disheartened and by capitalizing on it – I’d like to state it from the standpoint of ‘OK, what are the problems’? You know what? I think everybody’s identifying the problems. Then you get to the solutions. I don’t think anyone is talking about the solutions.”

But it’s an uphill battle to even come close to President Obama and his presumed Republican opponent Mitt Romney. Both are out fundraising him – his campaign has just pennies on the dollar in comparison. On top of that, in order to participate in national debates he has to earn at least a 15% approval rating in the polls where only two are even putting his name in the hat.

“Right now what we’re asking people to do is just get online and just give the polling organizations a call to include my name in the polls.”

But the campaign is looking at the silver lining. Libertarians say their candidate will be on the ballot in all 50 states. That’s not set in stone though. Adrian Wyllie, chair of the Libertarian Party of Florida said Johnson is facing some legal hurdles in Michigan.

“Because of a ‘sore loser’ law, because Gary Johnson formerly ran in the Republican Party and switched to Libertarian. They’re trying to keep him off the ballot. They say he missed the deadline for filing all the correct paperwork by three minutes.”

Wyllie said the bickering over three minutes just comes down to how long it took a clerk to put a time stamp on Johnson’s paperwork and he expects the hiccup to go away. But Johnson said he has a plan even if Michigan does succeed in keeping him off the ballot.

“There is a Gary E. Johnson Libertarian from Texas who has a radio talk show who will be standing in for me in Michigan if I’m not able. The Libertarian party is on the ballot. They’re excluding me from being the Libertarian nominee.”

According to Wyllie, the Libertarian party chose Johnson as their candidate in May, but the process is different than the primary system used by the two major political parties.

“So, we don’t put the tax payers through that burden of having to have a primary election like the Democrats and Republicans do. But we do hold a convention. We held ours in May in Las Vegas and Gary Johnson won the nomination with approximately 70% of the vote. So, a pretty clear mandate on the first ballot there.”

Johnson and Wyllie both agreed that, even though they want it, beating the deep-pocketed, media-favored opponents isn’t likely. But as a second priority, the Libertarian party is looking at this election as a way to bolster the party’s image. Johnson said his support has continuously grown over the past two years.

“If, on election day, that momentum continues to be like this – I’m willing to bet that it will be – I will continue to be a spokesperson for what I think, really, is a movement that offers up solutions to the problems that we face.”

Shawn Chastain sat in the hot outdoor dining area after having to walk back and forth through a hot parking lot to find a meter that would work just to meet Johnson. He said he identifies with the idea of personal liberty. He’s glad the party has a strong candidate who is doing a good job of building a reputation.

“To see that the Libertarian is a serious party. It is the largest independent or third party organization in the U.S. So, I hope it will help elevate those ideas of individual liberty and freedom to see that there is another choice other than just Democrats or Republican.”

Johnson said his 1995 gubernatorial win in New Mexico wasn’t all that different from his presidential bid. He claimed he went from a mere 2% approval rating to 25% in less than three weeks. According to the Florida Division of Elections website, Johnson is still listed as a Republican in the presidential race because he has not yet qualified for the election as a Libertarian. To do that, the party either needs to submit paperwork to the state or Johnson would need more than 100,000 petition signatures.

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