It’s official: Americans who favor the legalization of marijuana and same-sex marriage, and also want a balanced federal budget and more restrained foreign policy, now have an alternative to the two major parties in 2012.
During a press conference at the state capitol in Santa Fe on Wednesday, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson announced that he was dropping his bid for the GOP nomination and running for president instead as a Libertarian Party candidate.
“The Libertarian Party nominee will be on the ballot in all 50 states,” Johnson said. “That is very significant.”
Johnson is not the first Republican officeholder to serve as the Libertarian Party’s candidate for president — in 2008, former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr was the party’s nominee, and in 1988, it was Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who is currently seeking the Republican nomination.
A two-term governor who left office in 2003, Johnson’s popularity and name recognition in New Mexico gives the struggling Libertarian Party its best chance of winning electoral votes in a generation. A recent Public Policy Polling survey showed Johnson, running as a Libertarian, with 23 percent support in the state in a hypothetical match up against former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and President Obama.
Perhaps best known nationally for advocating the legalization of marijuana in the late 1990s, Johnson leapt into the Republican presidential field earlier this year. His campaign, however, failed to break out of the low single digits in polls and he was excluded from most televised debates.
Various well-known Americans expressed interest in his candidacy, notably marijuana enthusiast and musician Willie Nelson and Lt. Dan Choi, who was discharged from the military because of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
Johnson discussed what a “hypothetical” Libertarian Party run would look like earlier this week with The Daily Caller. He said that he would like to have veteran GOP strategist Roger Stone on board for the campaign, and would seek to represent a message that “has broad appeal” but few political champions.
His libertarian philosophy embraces the Second Amendment and a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.
Regarding the possibility of a third-party run watering down Republican electoral strength, Johnson told TheDC that he would expect to deprive President Obama of just as many votes as he would the GOP nominee.
Paul, who has been performing in the top tier of GOP candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire polls, has also been considered a possible third-party candidate, though he has repeatedly deflected the speculation.
The Libertarian Party will choose its nominee for president at their convention next May in Las Vegas.