Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is running for the Libertarian Party nomination, which will appear on the ballot in all 50 states, he told The Daily Caller Friday if mainstream Republicans won’t move over to his party now “it never will” happen.
Johnson has been at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) for the past few days and said, “the reaction here has been terrific, I mean I can’t even walk without people wanting their picture taken with me.”
While he was still well received a year ago when he visited, “it was not as enthusiastic as it is now.”
The former governor is hoping the ride the tidal wive of conservatives who are condemning Donald Trump and saying they would never vote for him.
He believes Trump alienates half the Republican Party and is thankful in a way for his successful candidacy. He said that, against Republicans, he would still advance the libertarian cause but, “in my opinion none so much as Donald Trump.”
When Johnson ran for governor, he pitched himself as a businessman who could use those skills to solve issues in government and thought Trump could’ve run a similar campaign with success. Though he says when Trump announced he “wouldn’t have dreamt” the real estate developer would have had the success he’s had.
Johnson believes Trump’s proposal to deport 11 or so million illegal aliens is “crazy.”
He said, “if he’s the nominee, its the end of the Republican Party.”
The former governor can’t say for sure whether he will be able to draw support from mainstream Republicans but said, “I can’t say it’s going to happen, if it doesn’t it never will.”
Even though neoconservatives strongly disagree with Johnson’s non-interventionist foreign policy outlook he could see himself getting their support. “On the basis of smaller government and free markets, yeah I should sweep anybody that holds to those principles,” said Gov. Johnson
Mitt Romney said Friday that he wouldn’t support either Clinton or Trump: “If those are my only two choices I’d vote for a conservative on the ballot — and if there weren’t one that I was comfortable with, I would write in a name.”
Gov. Johnson admitted the fact that someone like Romney might end up voting for him is “absolutely” surprising.
This does lead to questions about whether the former governor would end up as a spoiler in the general election, taking away votes from the Republican candidate and handing Hillary the keys to the White House.
Johnson believes the opposite will happen, “I think I take a lot more votes from Hillary.” Adding, “libertarians are so much closer aligned to Bernie Sanders than people realize, not socialist, not giving the farm when it comes to fiscal policies, but on the social side we look pretty darn close to Bernie Sanders, so I’m believing ultimately this takes more votes from Hillary.”
Due to filing deadlines, the Libertarian candidate will be the only one besides the Democrat and Republican nominee to appear on the ballot in every state. The former governor says, “What I would like people to recognize, and I don’t think that people do, is that the Libertarian Party is the third party.”
Tech tycoon John McAfee is his most serious opponent in the race for the Libertarian nomination and while Johnson refused to criticize him, he did say, “if I were a voter in the Libertarian process looking it at objectively I’d vote for me.”
On the Republican side, Ted Cruz has been actively seeking to gain the support of more “liberty-minded” voters, especially since Rand Paul left the race. Though the former New Mexico governor believes due to Cruz’s shift to a more hardline stance on immigration his efforts to gain the libertarian vote will fail.
Johnson was the Libertarian Party’s nominee in 2012 and received just about 1 percent of the vote, but he believes that “most Americans are libertarians they just don’t know it.” (RELATED:Gary Johnson: The GOP Is Dictated By The Far Right)
Relative to the GOP and the Democratic Party, Johnson is not raising large sums of money. However, he thinks, “if there is a perception I can win, then overnight this becomes a juggernaut.”
Regardless if that happens, he feels passionately about the role he has served so far in this race. “If I die tomorrow I’m going to think I put some reason into all this, that’s my payback regardless if it amounts to contributions.”