U.S. presidential candidate Gary Johnson leaves GOP to vie for the LP nom

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gary Johnson in January 2011.
Image: Gage Skidmore.

Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson ended his campaign for the Republican Party (GOP) presidential nomination to seek the backing of the Libertarian Party (LP). Johnson made the announcement yesterday during a press conference in Santa Fe. He remarked that it "was both a difficult decision - and an easy one...I have a lot of Republican history, and a lot of Republican supporters. But in the final analysis...I am a Libertarian - that is someone who is fiscally very conservative but holds freedom-based positions on the issues that govern our personal behavior."

Johnson, who supports abortion rights, gay marriage, and marijuana legalization, had trouble gaining support for his GOP candidacy. He remained low in the polls and was invited to only two of the fifteen presidential debates. His name was often not included in surveys, and he filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission after his exclusion from the November 12 CBS debate. He criticized the GOP establishment for failing to support his efforts. A switch to the LP had been expected for Johnson who argued that "the [GOP] process was not fair and open."

Democratic strategist Stanley Greenberg argued that "almost any third party helps [President Barack] Obama." A recent poll from Public Policy Polling shows Johnson with nine percent national support in a three-way race with Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney. Johnson's presence in the poll erases Romney's two percent lead in a head-to-head match up with Obama, giving the president a two point edge. Johnson's 20 to 23 percent support in his home state of New Mexico splits the vote to give Obama an easy victory in the state.

Nevertheless, Johnson seems to believe he can win. In his announcement, he pointed to a survey showing that "sixty three percent of Americans said they wished there was a third choice for 2012." He maintains that he is that choice.

Johnson joins the field of nine candidates currently seeking the LP nomination including National Guard officer R.J. Harris and Libertarian activist R. Lee Wrights. The party will hold its nominating convention on May 5.