Thursday, December 22, 2011

We'll Never Forget Ol' What's-His-Name

I was shocked to hear that former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is leaving the Republican primaries. Almost as shocked as I was to find out that he had been in the Republican primaries in the first place. He was not so much a dark horse as an invisible horse. He will leave the GOP and run as a candidate for the Libertarian Party. I wonder if they know about it yet.

Johnson was regularly excluded from the Republican candidate debates because he couldn't get enough apparent support to justify adding yet another unexciting candidate to the already-full panel. So Johnson decided to pick up his marbles and leave. The GOP's loss is the Libertarians' loss, er, gain. Johnson is the most exciting candidate to come along since John Huntsman.

Maybe the Republicans should have taken a little better look at Johnson before excluding him from the debates. Republicans harp on the idea of future presidents having some business experience. Johnson built businesses from the ground up. In 1976, he founded Big J Enterprises (a construction firm), starting with one employee--himself. He built the business rapidly, and within a few years landed a lucrative $38 million contract with Intel to build its adjunct facilities in New Mexico. He sold the company in 1999, at which point the company employed over 1,000 workers.

In 1994, largely self-funded with $500,000, Johnson entered politics. He ran against a popular Republican in the gubernatorial primary, and eked out a narrow victory. That was his last narrow win. He won the Republican nomination for governor, and defeated the Democratic incumbent by ten percent. In the next gubernatorial election, he ran against a Latino Democrat in a state with one of the largest Hispanic populations (percentage-wise) in the nation (40 percent). Again, he won by over ten percent. In fact, he was so popular in his first term that the New Mexico term-limits legislation (one term only) was modified to allow him to run for a second term.

Republicans want candidates with executive experience. Johnson has that experience in both the private and public sectors. But what about fiscal responsibility? During his first term alone, he vetoed 200 out of 424 spending bills, and gutted many others using his line-item veto. He kept his promise to reduce the state's budget by 10%. He attempted to cut taxes deeply, and succeeded in many of his fights with the Democrats in the legislature. Yet he also managed to increase spending on core subject education while fighting the good fight for school vouchers. When test scores improved only marginally with the public school expenditures, he went full-bore for the voucher program.

Among his accomplishments in office were shifting state Medicaid to an efficient "managed care" system, fired over 1200 public employees, set a record for budget vetoes, balanced the state budget for 6 out of 8 years, and left New Mexico with a $1 billion surplus. He was less successful with his school voucher program, but he never stopped trying. He vetoed or line-item vetoed nearly 2000 bills during his eight years in office, and of those, only two were overridden by the legislature.

His Libertarian side also showed during his two terms. He attempted to decriminalize and legalize marijuana use and distribution. He pointed out that half of New Mexico's law enforcement resources were devoted to drug-related offenses, and said that the problem should move from the criminal arena to the medical/social arena. That is a Libertarian stand, but one that was also supported by such notable conservatives as William F. Buckley.

In the 2000 elections, the Libertarian Party attempted to recruit him to run for president, but he demurred, saying that he was a lifelong committed Republican. Nevetheless, in 2008, he endorsed Ron Paul for the presidency, seemingly setting up his own status as a Republican/Libertarian. That now seems to have come to full fruition with his abandonment of the run for the Republican nomination in order to court the Libertarians.

This could get interesting (or not). There have been strong rumblings of a Ron Paul third-party run at the presidency on the Libertarian ticket. How Paul would treat a rival who previously endorsed him is entirely unknown at this point. In any event, it certainly raises the specter of a "spoiler" election in 2012. How badly that might hurt Republicans remains to be seen. For the time being, Paul has said he will not run on a third-party ticket because it might hurt his son's political future in the Senate.

In a third-party scenario, absent Ron Paul as a candidate, Johnson's is one of three candidate names proferred with name identification between 1% and 10%. Public Policy Polling puts him at 9%, as opposed to New York City liberal mayor Michael Bloomberg at 8% and Independent/Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. In the same poll sampling, without Johnson, Republican Mitt Romney beats Obama by 47% to 45%. With Johnson in the race, Romney beats Obama 43% to 41%.

At this early stage, I have no idea what to make of that. It's certainly well within the margin of error in what promises to be a much closer general election than most people think. New Mexico's five electoral college votes could determine the outcome, either giving Obama a victory or throwing the election into the House of Representatives, thereby giving the Republican the victory.

To add to the confusion, New Mexico is one of nine states (along with Illinois, Hawaii, New Jersey, California, Washington, Massachusetts, Washington DC, Vermont, and Maryland) which may enter into the "national popular vote" compact which gives its electoral college votes to the candidate who wins the most votes nationally even if a different candidate wins the popular vote in New Mexico. The bill passed the New Mexico House, but has been hung up in the Senate. The other nine states have already passed the bill in both houses and it has been signed by the respective governors.

Johnson's entry into the race as a third-party candidate may have an effect that is more apparent than real. Still, this will be a general election in which almost anything could happen, and small shifts in voter preferences could make for some wild results.


Game Master Rob Adams said...

Speaking as the quazi official libertarian party guy here (I vote rep normally because well let's face it some of their ideas are wack) I can without a doubt and clearly and in all honest opinion say "huh? who"?

Individualist said...

Why is it that the only time I hear of any Libertarian running for office is the POTUS.

This is a memo to my Libertarian friends:

There are 435 congrssional seats, 100 Senatorial seats and Lord knows how many state and county assemblymen, senators, alderman, representatives and whatever else they want to name them.

Do me this favor.... Get elected to at least 5% of these positions before making the push for POTUS. You cannot win the POTUS slot and you will only ensure that the GOP loses votes leaving statists who are at the bottom of your daimond diagram which you are diametrically opposed to to run the country.

I believe you could win national slots. Why the heck is Gary Johnson not running as a Libertarian for Congress or Senate in New Mexico. It seems to me a Libertarian Candidate for POTUS who was a current US Senator would fare much better.

Joel Farnham said...

Sounds like a guy deliberately ignored by the Media and the Establishment Republicans.

With the possible exception of Bachmann, Every single one of our candidates have some close ties to some stupidity we don't and shouldn't tolerate.

Perry -- Acting like a dictator. Mandating shots before legislation could arrive.

Gingrich -- Sitting on the same couch with Pelosi. That is stupid enough. Everyone knows she has those hippie/Haight Ashbury cooties. This is why you always see a pained expression on Liberal's faces.

Cain -- Giving up the good fight. I know it was troublesome, but the worst was over. Why go through as much pain as you did and then quit?

Romney -- RomneyCare, the blueprint for ObamaCare.

Hunstman -- Agreeing to be Obama's B)#$%# to China.

Santorum -- Opening his mouth and giving out standard blandishments which are never remembered.

Ron Paul -- We know that the Islamists can't militarily take us over, but they can and will attempt to blow up any and all buildings in the United States. Ignoring this possibility and the real possibility of Iran obtaining a nuclear bomb is the height of stupidity and arrogance.

Have I missed anyone?

Tennessee Jed said...

sounds like a Ron Paul without the tinfoil. I really hope that we navigate through the inevitable shake down cruise associated with a party on the outs (remember Bush vs. the 7 drawfs?) As glib as he was (and is) randy Bill Clinton seemed little more than another young horny southern Democrat until the general race got started.

As I have oft stated, our best Clintons are the young guns, Ryan and Rubio. Our party is so old and stilted it almost never takes a chance.

T-Rav said...

Normally, I would be content to make cracks about Johnson, who quite frankly has not impressed me the two or three times I've seen him on TV. However, I have seen some buzz around the blogosphere about libertarians who are distressed by Paul's kookiness considering throwing their support to him instead. So...who knows.

Unknown said...

ACG: Believe me, you're not alone. Johnson must be the most famous person that nobody ever heard of.

Unknown said...

Indi: I agree. There's much to be said for libertarianism, though carried too far it sounds a lot like anarchy. Still, their understanding of some of our basic freedoms and willingness to protect them regularly are better than either of the major parties. But c'mon, guys, win a few local, regional and statewide elections as Libertarians first. Otherwise, you're just spoilers.

Unknown said...

Joel: That list is sufficiently exhaustive.

Unknown said...

Tennessee: You forgot Bobby Jindal.

Unknown said...

T-Rav: My first thought was that if Johnson wins the Libertarian nod and starts to get traction, Dear Lord, please let Ralph Nader run again.

Writer X said...

He kind of looks like Huntsman too. I just heard about this guy yesterday. The irony is that the last people you ever hear about are the ones who are actually working and making a difference.

StanH said...

As a Conservative Republican, and small (l) libertarian, I liked Johnson, with that being said, he was dull as dishwater. In order to beat TOTUS in 2012 will require some degree of excitement - - and here we are with Romney/Gingrich…sheesh. Your hypotheses about Barry winning by a plurality ala Clinton is apt, however there is also the 1980 election when Anderson ran as a Libertarian, and was allowed to attend the debates as I recall (I liked many things he advocated as well), however Reagan still swept the floor with Carter. In my opinion if our candidate will be a conservative, like Romney in his withdrawal speech in ’08, or Gingrich pre ’94 we still win big, regardless what Johnson does. This is my hope, and belief.

AndrewPrice said...

Forget it.

Johnson is irrelevant. He’s the worst parts of Ron Paul mixed with even worse. He has zero charisma. His only good moment at the debate what when he stole a joke from Rush. His economic ideas where vague and odd. His foreign policy is surrender. His main issue seems to be legalization of drugs. And he never even polled 1% with Republicans.

He’s no danger in this election.

Unknown said...

WriterX: It is strange that his name is so poorly-known. I know he's from a relatively small electoral college state, but I recognized former NM Governor Bill Richardson's name the first time it showed up nationally, and he didn't accomplish much of anything.

BTW, I've often heard Bill Richardson touted as the first Hispanic governor of the State of New Mexico. So what do they make of Ezequiel de Barca (D) and Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo (R)? I don't think they were Swedish. But the only other governor of NM that I knew about was Lew Wallace (of Ben-Hur and Billy the Kid fame), and NM was still a territory.

rlaWTX said...

from the wonkish-I-love-politics-side, this is rather interesting (although Indi has an EXCELLENT point!), but from the I-have-to-live-in-this-country-please-don't-let-TOTUS-be-reelected-side, a libertarian 3rd party run is terrifying!

in 94, I was fresh out of college and too busy trying to afford to eat to pay too much attention, so I don't remember hearing about him as governor (unlike Bill Richardson who I think invited the runaway TX D legislators to hide in NM in 2003)...

rlaWTX said...

per Wiki:
Ezequiel Cabeza De Baca (November 1, 1864 – February 18, 1917) was the first Hispano elected for office as Lieutenant Governor in New Mexico's first election. His term as Lieutenant Governor was followed by his election as the second elected Governor of New Mexico. This term was brief as he died shortly after taking office. He was the state's first elected Hispanic governor. ... He was born in Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory...

Octavio Ambrosio Larrazolo (December 7, 1859 – April 7, 1930) served as the fourth Governor of New Mexico and a United States Senator. He was the first United States Senator of Mexican-American heritage.

Unknown said...

Stan: From what I've seen of him, he makes Huntsman look like Mr. Excitement. I guess it's too bad that we tend to look at personality over accomplishment, but it's human nature. The winning combination is personality and accomplishment. Ronald Reagan had them in spades. And as he would have said, "there you go again, wishing for another Gipper."

Unknown said...

Andrew: I think that's probably true. I know he was about as interesting as cold oatmeal. I guess it comes down to my worrying about anything that might draw votes away from the Republican candidate. As I said in an earlier comment, I hope Nader runs again, then he and Johnson can split the 1% of the national vote. I'm truly concerned that the 2012 election could come down to a few hundred thousand votes and a small number of electoral college votes.

Unknown said...

rlaWTX: Like Andrew, I don't think this is going to amount to much. He's certainly no Ross Perot. He's probably not even a Ralph Nader. But there is considerable dissatisfaction with both major parties right now, so even a few "protest" votes for a third-party candidate worries me. I know I keep harping on how I believe this election is going to be much closer than either side thinks, but I'm worried about any lost votes.

Unknown said...

rlaWTX: That's the history. And I did misspell De Baca's last name.

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