As disaffected Republicans muse about the possibility of backing a third-party candidate instead of Donald Trump in a general election, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, seeking the Libertarian Party nomination for president, says he sees a big opportunity.
“If this isn’t an opportunity for the Libertarian nominee — and I hope to be the Libertarian nominee — there will never be an opportunity, in my opinion,” Johnson said in an interview with several reporters at The Daily Caller’s newsroom this week.
Johnson briefly ran for president as a Republican in 2012 before leaving the party to become the Libertarian Party’s nominee, winning more than one million votes against Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
He’s now focused on winning the nomination again at the party’s Memorial Day weekend convention in Orlando and suing the Presidential Debate Commission so his party’s nominee will be included in the general election debates.
“There’s no way that a third party wins the presidency without being in the presidential debates,” Johnson said.
Asked what he thought about libertarian-leaning [crscore]Rand Paul[/crscore]’s poor performance in the Republican primaries this year, Johnson said Paul is libertarian on economics but not on social issues.
“What’s disheartening is he’s got this libertarian label,” Johnson said, “which is applicable to half of what he had to say, but then on the social side, he’s a Republican. At the end of the day, he’s a Republican.”
Johnson argues his views are in line with most Americans. “I really believe that the majority of people in this country are libertarians, that we’re classically liberal at the end of the day, we’re fiscally conservative…but also we’re socially liberal. Who cares how you live your life as long as it doesn’t adversely affect mine?”
Johnson pointed out how he and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders have similar views on foreign policy.
“Sanders, I think, is who I’m in line with when it comes to foreign policy,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he recently took a test online that tells you what candidate you agree with most “and I sided with myself 90 percent of the time, but then in second place, I sided with Bernie Sanders 73 percent of the time, which to me just spoke volumes of why he’s so popular.”
“Obviously, we’re 180 degrees when it comes to economics, but when it comes to foreign policy, when it comes to crony capitalism, when it comes to Europe, a woman’s right to choose, marijuana, to me it spoke volumes as to why he is doing as well as he is,” Johnson said.
Asked if he has spoken with some of the conservatives who say they are interested in supporting a third-party candidate if Trump becomes the Republican nominee, Johnson said: “We’ve got a few of these meetings here, I’ve got a few of those meetings in the next few days.”
He also quipped: “I kind of don’t even know who they are and I’m kind of wondering why we’re even doing it, being they were Santorum supporters.”
With ballot access a timely and difficult thing for many third party candidates, Johnson said people looking for a third-party candidate should know his party will be on every state’s ballots.
“What’s not being reported right now, and I think should be, is that the Libertarian Party is going to be on the ballot in all 50 states,” he said.
Criticizing Trump, Johnson said: “I never said anything as crazy as I’m going to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, I never said anything as crazy as I’m going to build a fence across the border, never said anything as crazy as I’m going to kill the families of Islamic terrorists – who’s going to arbitrate over that?”
“He’s going to force the military to bring back waterboarding, and worse, torture, to detainees,” Johnson said. “Trump: ‘I’m free market!’ In the next sentence: ‘I’m going to force Apple to make their iPhones and their iPads in the United States.’ I’ve never said anything in my political career as dumb as any of those things.”
Asked about the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton, Johnson said: “The FBI may in fact present a preponderance of evidence that says that she should be indicted – but I can’t imagine that the Justice Department will do that. I can’t imagine it.”
“And, that aside, how do you get any more establishment than the Clintons and Democrat politics? You can’t. Is anything going to change with Hillary? No, nothing’s going to change.”
Johnson — an avid outdoorsman who has climbed the highest mountain on each of the seven continents, including Mount Everest – lamented how “this presidential campaign has really bit into my skiing” before admitting he has “skied 70 days this season.”
“And next summer, unless I’m elected president, I plan to ride the Great Divide, which is a 3,000-mile mountain bike rice across the continental divide from Banff, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico. So I gotta tell you, as a 63-year -old, it’s a bit of an oxymoron, but I’m as fit a 63-year-old as you’re going to find.”