Two-time presidential contender Ron Paul is neither confirming nor denying that he will run for president a third time in 2012, telling news site The Daily Caller that he hasn't yet made a decision. But he is certain about a couple of things. First, he thinks “there's no doubt” that prospects for a libertarian to win the Republican Party's presidential nomination look better in 2012 than ever. Second, he sees former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson as “the best” alternative should he not run himself.
The Daily Caller is an online conservative news site founded, in January 2010, by Neil Patel (a former aide to VP Dick Cheney) and talking head Tucker Carlson. Carlson was one of the first main stream media (MSM) pundits to promote Paul's campaign for the Republican nomination in 2007-8.
Paul predicted that the Republicans will be more open to a libertarian-oriented candidate in 2012 than they were during his run. “I think there's no doubt about it,” he asserted:
Noting the “big libertarian influence in the Tea Party movement,” Paul says libertarian beliefs are making their way into the lexicon of traditional Republicans.
“I think even the issue of the Federal Reserve — that issue is almost mainstream,” he said. “And I think things have shifted because of the financial crisis as well as the bogging down of our foreign policy. So the American people are looking for some different answers.” (1)
Paul argued that a libertarian-Republican would also attract crucial independent support. “Not that I'm pumping my own campaign because I don't have one, but I think somebody did a poll that showed that when it comes to independent voters and they put my name up against Obama's, I can beat him by 18 percent,” he told the Caller. ” So I think the independents are much more open to fiscal responsibility and personal liberties and a different foreign policy.”
Paul, whose anti-Iraq war views won him jeers at some Republican events in 2008, says a libertarian-minded GOP candidate will be better received when Obama runs for re-election. But he cautioned that he himself has not decided to run. “It's too early for me to talk much about that because I haven't made a decision. I haven't ruled it out, but I'm not on the verge of making a decision anytime soon,” Paul said.
Asked to name other potential presidential candidates he could support, Paul replied, “I guess the best one would be Johnson from New Mexico — Gary Johnson.” (1)
Gary Johnson, who served as the Republican governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003, endorsed Paul's GOP presidential bid in January 2008, and spoke at his Rally for the Republic that September. (2)
Some Johnson boosters were ecstatic. For instance, conservatarian blogger Doug Mataconis, editor of Below the Beltway, wrote both there and at United Liberty: “Gary Johnson is someone I've been watching for awhile and I'd love to see him get into the Presidential race. Perhaps this will persuade him to do so.” (3)
However, David Boaz, executive vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute, pooh-poohed the chances of either Johnson or Paul winning the Republican nomination: “Ron Paul may make some noise, and may run, but House members don't get nominated for president. Gary Johnson has a great libertarian record, but he doesn't yet have much national recognition.” (1)
Indeed: the only MSM outlet to carry the story was the New Mexico Independent in the ex-Governor's home state. (4)
Outside of New Mexico, Johnson is little known. Even the Johnson for America website is reporting that, as of a May 12 Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey, ”81% had still yet to form an opinion of Gary Johnson.” (5)
Like Paul, Johnson continues to neither confirm nor deny that he has presidential aspirations, citing his position as honorary chairman of a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, OUR America, as barring him from commenting on specific candidacies. Meanwhile, he continues to campaign.
Johnson spent a good part of June in California, “supporting the state's November ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use, allow small residential cultivation and permit local governments to tax and regulate pot sales” (as the Sacramento Bee put it) . “I'm here to promote it in any way I can,” he told the Bee in an interview. “I liken it to the domino effect. This might be what brings rational drug policy to the rest of the country.” (6)
He closed out the month in New Hampshire, spending the June 24-27 weekend attending (and addressing) the Free State Project’s annual Porcupine Freedom Festival. (7)
Dustin Krutsinger blogs at Caffeinated Thoughts that Johnson's recent TV “appearances include The Colbert Report, Neil Cavuto, Freedom Watch with Judge Napolitano, Hannity, and Real Time with Bill Maher.” He also reports that in July Johnson is making his first visit to the crucial early-caucus state of Iowa: a week-long cross-state trip as a participant in RAGBRAI. (8)
RAGBRAI, its Facebook page tells us, stands for the [Des Moines] Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, “an annual seven-day bicycle ride across the state of Iowa. Heading into its 38th year, RAGBRAI is the oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world. The seven-day total mileage for RAGBRAI averages 472 miles while the daily mileage averages 68 miles.” This year, the nearly 500-mile trek runs July 25-31. (9)
Noting the Governor's athletic accomplishments, Krutsinger comments: “I picture Gary Johnson sailing through the ride with plenty of time to spare for hand shaking at each stop.” (8) For my part, I picture Johnson parleying the event into as much face time with both Iowa voters and the state and local media as he can get, followed by a rash of polling in Iowa in August to see whether his numbers there have improved.
Of course, a Johnson candidacy ultimately depends on whether Paul runs or not. On the one hand, Paul has much higher name recognitition and polls better. A June PPP poll (as Paul himself noted) found him leading Obama among independent voters 46%-28%. (10)
By the 2012 campaign, though, Paul will be 77 — as old as Reagan when he left office, six years older than John McCain in last year's loss — which would make him 85 at the end of his second term. Despite Paul's amazing physical health, his age will definitely factor into any decision.
Says online magazine Salon (which, admittedly, is no friend of the Pauls): “It's an open question whether he'll have the stamina and desire to wage another national campaign.” Salon sees a Johnson candidacy as a “fallback option” for Paul. (11)
On the other hand, citing the June PPP numbers, Before It's News urged Paul both to run in the 2012 primaries, and to pick Johnson early on as his running mate:
Paul should run as a Republican with his libertarian colleague, former Governor Gary Johnson as VP. (I said exactly this in January at Conflicted Libertarian) They should run together in 2012 in the GOP primaries with the mission of restoring constitutional government. It would be exciting and would set up Johnson for a run in 2016. (12)
Photo: Former Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson answering an audience member's question at a Campaign for Liberty event at CPAC, Feb. 19, 2010. Photo by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic (CC-BY-SA-2.0) License. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gary_Johnson1.jpg
(1) Alex Pappas, “Ron Paul says GOP will be more open to libertarian-minded nominee in 2012“, The Daily Caller, June 21, 2010. http://dailycaller.com/2010/06/21/ron-paul-says-gop-will-be-more-open-to-libertarian-minded-nominee-in-2012/
(2) George Dance, “Gary Johnson and Our America“, Nolan Chart, Jan. 11, 2010. Web. June 28, 2010. http://www.nolanchart.com/article7243.html
(3) Doug Mataconis, “Ron Paul Non-Committal On 2012 Run For President, Hints He May Back Gary Johnson“, United Liberty, June 22, 2010. Web. June 28, 2010. http://www.unitedliberty.org/articles/6156-ron-paul-non-committal-on-2012-run-for-president-hints-he-may-back-gary-johnson
(4) Matthew Reichbach, “Ron Paul undecided on 2012 run, but says Johnson would be a good candidate”, New Mexico Independent, June 22, 2010. http://newmexicoindependent.com/57831/ron-paul-undecided-on-2012-run-but-says-johnson-would-be-a-good-candidate
(5) Josiah Schmidt, “Gary Johnson included in first national presidential poll!”, Johnson for America, May 12, 2010. Web. June 28, 2010. http://garyjohnson2012.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/gary-johnson-included-in-first-national-presidential-poll/
(6) “Ex-New Mexico governor advocates California pot legalization“, Weed Wars, Sacramento Bee, June 17, 2010. Web. June 28, 2010. http://blogs.sacbee.com/weed-wars/2010/06/ex-new-mexico-governor-advocates-california-pot-legalization.html
(7) “Porcfest – Liberty in Our Time“, 2010 Porcupine Freedom Festival, n.d. Web. June 28, 2010. http://www.freestateproject.org/festival/
(8) Dustin Krutsinger, “Gary Johnson, Potential 2012 Presidential Candidate to Iowa to Ride RAGBRAI“, Caffeinated Thoughts, June 2, 2010. http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/2010/06/gary-johnson-potential-2012-presidential-candidate-to-ride-ragbrai/
(9) “RAGBRAI“, Facebook. Web June 28, 2010. http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=127565687272083&index=1
(10) “Obama up in 2012 contests,” Public Policy Polling, June 10, 2010. Web. June 28, 2010. http://publicpolicypolling.blogspot.com/2010/06/obama-up-in-2012-contests.html
(11) Steve Kornacki, “Ron Paul's fallback option for 2012?“, Salon, June 21, 2010. http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2010/06/21/ron_paul_2012_gary_johnson
(12) Virginia Right, “RON PAUL/GARY JOHNSON In 2012!”, Before It’s News, June 22, 2010. http://beforeitsnews.com/news/84/039/RON_PAUL_GARY_JOHNSON_in_2012.htmlTweet