Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson (R-NM) threw his hat in the Republican ring during the primary season — but, unlike candidates like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MO), former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and never-elected businessman Herman Cain, he got no support from his party, was excluded from the debates and found himself in the position of either quietly withdrawing or giving his own party’s eventual candidate a run for his money. He chose the latter, and is now the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee. He talked to Raw Story about the primary, debate and presidential ballot process and how it’s totally stacked against third party candidates.
Raw Story: You were the Republican governor of a state, and now the Libertarian candidate. Did it surprise you that that’s the way it played out in this election cycle?
Johnson: Yeah. I thought I would get a fair shake by Republicans, and I wasn’t given a fair shake at all. Although, having been the governor of New Mexico for two terms, I was completely outside of politics prior to running for governor of New Mexico. But the Republican party of New Mexico was totally inclusive. They included me in everything, they said, “Hey, we’re going to give you a seat at the table, you can make your case. You just need to know you’ll never get elected, And by never get elected, you know, the state’s 2-to-1 Democratic so it’s just not going to happen. But have at it, we think you’re great. You can hack away, and see what happens.” But that didn’t happen nationally.
It’s not a fair process. I am surprised. Naively, I thought it would be a fair process. But it wasn’t. It was anything but.
I was excluded. CNN really cast the whole thing in stone, they said to be in their second debate, I had to be at 1 percent in A, B and C polls, and I wasn’t in A, B and C polls. How do you get in the debate if you’re not in the polls? I asked the Republican party to stand up and demand that I be in the polls because, I said, “You, the Republican party, are being dictated to by CNN.” MSNBC halfway through the debates they stopped issuing criteria for the debates. But MSNBC, for their first debate, they had two criteria for the debate. The criteria were: 4 percent in any national poll in the prior year; and be registered to run for president. I was at 4 percent in a Gallup poll in May — can’t make it up — and I was registered to run for President. They would not return our calls as to why I didn’t have a seat at the table. I demanded that the Republican party, “Look, are you all going to be dictated to by the media or are you going to stand up and say, ‘By your own criteria, a former two-term governor of a state qualifies to be on the stage.’” They would have nothing to do with me, meaning the Republican party would have nothing to do with me.
Raw Story: Did you ever get an explanation for that? Do you have a sense of why that was?
Johnson: Well, the explanation was that they had to draw the line somewhere and our response was, “Well, you’re not listening at all, are you?”
Raw Story: As an observer of politics for 20 years, the idea that Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann or Herman Cain were considered more legitimate candidate than a twice-elected governor of a state seemed kind of silly to me. I can guess how it seemed to you.
Johnson: And there were a couple of statistics that go along with that too, I guess. I made a name for myself vetoing legislation, so from the whole fiscal conservancy side, I think I have the cred. They did a poll on favor abilities of all the presidential candidates in their home states. There was only one presidential candidate viewed favorably in his or her own state, and that was me. And the state is 2-to-1 Democrat. But on civil liberties the ACLU — I don’t know if you saw their report card in December — I had the highest grade of Obama, Romney. Romney was zero. Zero. He actually registered zero. But higher than Obama, higher than Ron Paul. On job creation, I had the best record on job creation.
Raw Story: Let’s talk a bit about the ACLU’s scorecard on civil liberties, since that issue was a lot of the impetus for Ron Paul’s popularity, a lot of the impetus for his campaign, a lot of the impetus for a lot of disaffected liberals getting behind his campaign. Why do you think your campaign hasn’t had the same effect on those people, especially compared to someone who is anti-same sex marriage, anti-abortion, voted for the war in Afghanistan?
Johnson: I think it has completely to do with knowledge of me as a candidate. I don’t think people are aware of me as a candidate. Have you seen the website iSidewith.com? I’m the next president of the United States based on the 1.9 million people who have taken that test. That’s why I’m still doing this, is because there’s a huge amount of momentum that I have. I’m not expecting anybody to recognize that, but I wouldn’t be doing this if that wasn’t the case.
Ron Paul’s candidacy is at an end. It’s officially at the end. And who’s the spokesperson for these issues? It’s by default going to be the Libertarian nominee for President. Well, I’m the Libertarian nominee for president.
I would love people to get online at the iSidewith website and take the quiz and see where you come down. There is nothing in my resume to suggest that I’m not going to doggedly pursue everything I’m talking about. I think Obama really talks the game. The reality of the talk doesn’t exist. But based on my history up to the point of sitting here with you, there’s nothing in my history to suggest anything but action to go with the words.
Raw Story: How has switching parties gone?
Johnson: Totally welcomed. I believe I’m the first Libertarian nominee in their 40 year history that was nominated on the first ballot. So I got 70 percent of the vote on the first ballot, and 30percent were not alienated in any way whatsoever. It was absolutely, really enthusiastic and remains that way. The Libertarian party, what I’m being told is, there’s never been as much excitement. And this is my observation, but this is what I’m also being told.
Raw Story: How many states will you be on the ballot in?
Johnson: We will be on the ballot in 50 states. Right now, we are on the ballot in 38 states. We actually got on the ballot in the worst state of all, which is Oklahoma. I’m the Americans Elect candidate on the ballot in Oklahoma, which is an absolute coup if you followed that at all. That is amazing. It’s my understanding that, of all the third parties, we will be on the ballot in all 50 states. In second place, when it comes to third party candidates, will be the Green Party on about 30 states’ [ballots], that’s what I’m hearing secondhand. But I don’t think they’re going to be on the ballot in more than 30.
So, there’s really only going to be — and I’ll call it — viable third party. Will the Green party be on enough ballots to qualify to win the presidency with enough electoral votes? That’s really a question. They could. But I am there. That’s one of the criteria for being allowed into the Presidential debates in October. The other is getting up to 15 percent in the polls. I’m hopeful. If there’s anything that the Republican primary taught us, it’s that there’s about a 17-day news cycle. I don’t want to peak too early.
Megan Carpentier is the executive editor of Raw Story. She previously served as an associate editor at Talking Points Memo; the editor of news and politics at Air America; an editor at Jezebel.com; and an associate editor at Wonkette. Her published works include pieces for the Washington Post, the Washington Independent, Ms Magazine, RH Reality Check, the Women's Media Center, On the Issues, the New York Press, Bitch and Women's eNews.
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