Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beast Columnist: Paul Can't Win, Johnson Can

The general consensus among political types, both state and national, is that Ron Paul's announcement of an "exploration" committee this week probably makes former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson's long-shot presidential bid that much longer.

Daily Beast columnist John Avalon, however, argues that libertarians are making a mistake touting Paul while ignoring Johnson.

Given the deepening appeal of libertarianism—and Paul’s established status as an ideas icon but not a winner of broad popular elections—it’s a bit frustrating that the other avowed libertarian in the 2012 presidential race is still fighting to get noticed. After all, Gary Johnson is not some loud-mouthed vanity candidate—he is the former two-term governor of a pivotal swing state. But while his successor, Bill Richardson was taken seriously as a candidate in 2008 and the newly elected Susana Martinez is already fawned over by the conservative press, Johnson is comparatively ignored.

Fomer Gov. Gary JohnsonIn Johnson, however libertarians might have their most accomplished modern advocate—a proven vote getter with demonstrated crossover appeal, a self-made millionaire and iron-man competitor who supports marijuana legalization (and let’s be honest, that libertarian plank has always been a source of the movement’s popularity on college campuses). More importantly, he has actually reined in government spending as an executive—leaving his successor a budget in the black.

Another national commentator, comedian Jay Leno, took notice of the former governor Tuesday night.

“Well folks, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has announced he will run for president in 2012.," Leno said in his monologue. "Gary Johnston? His campaign slogan --  `Even I never heard of me.' "

A former staffer for Johnson, who alerted me to this pointed out that Johnson was unknown when he first ran for governor too.