Not since Michael Douglas played the role of President Andrew Shepard in the 1995 flick “The American President” has there been a bachelor president in the White House.
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a libertarian-leaning Republican running for president in 2012 — like Shepard in the movie — isn’t married either. But he’s engaged.
This potential first lady — or shall we say, first fiancé — is Kate Prusack, a Santa Fe realtor Johnson met while on a bike ride. Prusack, 58, is a 1976 graduate of Goddard College in Vermont, according to the Johnson campaign.
They’ve been dating for three years and have been engaged for a year and a half. Like the 58-year-old Johnson — an avid sportsman who has climbed Mt. Everest — she bikes, hikes and skis. In fact, the couple was engaged on the chair lift at Taos, a ski resort in New Mexico.
No date is set for the couple’s wedding. In a statement, she said they’d “love to get married somewhere special, we just can’t find the time.”
Said Prusack: “My fiancé’s always on the road!”
Johnson was governor of New Mexico from 1994 to 2003. He’s not known nationally, but has a fan base especially in libertarian circles. Among his views that differ from traditional Republicans is his support for the legalization of marijuana.
Johnson has two grown children from a previous marriage. He divorced his first wife, Dee Johnson, in 2005. She died of heart failure in 2006.
Myra Gutin, a professor at Rider University and author of the book “The President’s Partner: The First Lady in the 20th Century,” said she can’t recall any president who was engaged to be married while running for the White House.
Gutin said voters look at the spouses for insight into the candidates’ character. Not being married could be a turn off voters, she said.
“I can’t imagine that it’s positive and something in his favor,” she said.
Tina Brown, the editor of Newsweek and the Daily Beast who recently published a piece by Cindy McCain about being a wife on the campaign trail, said voters expect a lot from the spouses of presidential candidates.
“We expect for them to be everything,” Brown said recently on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “We expect them to smile, wave…be informed, have tremendous amount of ideas about policy and at the same time, not be too aggressive, look chic.”
Ron Nielson, senior consultant to Johnson’s campaign, said Prusack has sporadically joined Johnson on the campaign trail, attending his New Hampshire announcement. Nielson said he expects her to play a more active role as the campaign heats up.
Prusack isn’t very political active, Neilson said, though “she’s insightful and follows the daily news.” Johnson once gave his fiancé a copy of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” he said.
Questions about his marital status rarely come up when Johnson campaigns, Nielson said. But its plausible the couple could have a wedding soon.
“They’re anxious to get married,” Nielson said.