2012 Update: Who is Gary Johnson?

This post is part of my “2012 Presidential Election” series.  Click here to see more in the series.

He’s not as good-looking as Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin or Paul Ryan (do you know how often I begin to call him Ryan Paul, or even Ron Paul—what kind of guy has two first names for a name?).  He’s not as ugly as Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich or Mitch Daniels.  So, I guess we can chalk up his average looks as another point against him.

If you’ve ever heard of Gary Johnson before, please raise your hand.  Now, if you’re from New Mexico, put your hand down.  That’s what I thought; there are three people outside of New Mexico that’s heard of Gary Johnson.

Aside: as I was just now writing a list of the pretty Republicans who are running for president, I realized that there are a LOT of pretty people running for the Republican party nomination!  I had to keep adding to the list! [end of aside]

No one knows who Gary Johnson is.  His looks make him unremarkable.  His name is not easy to remember, because it’s so common.  What does Gary Johnson have going for him that other candidates do not?

Well, let me make a list (because lists are easier to read):

  • Won 2 statewide elections in a moderately Democratic state
  • Successful 2-term governor of a modestly-populous state (New Mexico)
  • Vetoed 750 bills that were passed by the state legislature, to save the state money
  • Decreased state workers in New Mexico by 1,200 over his 8 years as governor
  • Cut taxes 14 times during his time as governor
  • He left New Mexico with a $1 billion surplus
  • Was called the most “fiscally conservative governor”
  • Supported school vouchers to increase competition in public education
  • He finished third in the 2011 CPAC straw poll (behind Ron Paul and Mitt Romney)
  • He supports expanding immigration, making it easier to come here and stay here
  • He advocates getting rid of the corporate income tax to stimulate economic growth
  • Was a successful businessman, and a self-made millionaire, before getting into politics

I’ve heard several interviews with Gary Johnson, and one of my favorite stories that he tells is about when he vetoed legislation that would have required pet stores to give their cats and dogs a certain amount of exercise per week.  While well-intentioned, the law would have required a large new state bureaucracy to make sure the regulations were followed.  This veto example is classic Gary Johnson.  His favorite mantra about government is “what are we paying for, and what are we getting for for what we’re paying?”

So, the upside to Gary Johnson for president is that he has executive experience, he has a conservative fiscal record, and he governs with common sense.  What are some of the potential pitfalls for Gary Johnson?

  • Name recognition: he doesn’t have any
  • He gets bogged down on the issue of legalized marijuana.  He’s for it.  I think he has a well-thought-out policy on this, but it could bog him down in other areas.
  • His support in the Republican Party decreases with his positions on abortion and gay marriage.  He thinks that abortion should be legal up to the point of viability, and he believes that government should get out of the business of marriage (and allow gays to have their own unions).

Question: Gary Johnson is often called a libertarian Republican.  Do you think that libertarians are right to say the government should get out of the marriage business?

Video of Gary Johnson at CPAC:

  • Hardy

    Good post. Of course only three 1% of New Mexicans were going to vote for him about 3 months before the election but he debated, built up his name recognition, and they liked what they heard. He beat the GOP establishment’s candidate then went on to be the incumbent Democrat. His fiscal record in office stands head and shoulders above the rest of the candidates in the race.

    I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more Johnson coverage in the news

    Oh the other thing he has going against him is he refuses to talk about his opponents and focuses on the isssues. A huge breath of fresh air. The downside media like to cover mudslinging and birtherism.

    • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

      I agree; I expect to hear a lot more about him in the coming days, because he has solid views, and a solid record. I expect him to go far.

  • Dan

    To the question of whether the government should get out of the “marriage business”, this is an issue on which I have been recently re-examining my previous stance: until recently I had been essentially in agreement, that the government should only recognize “unions” for ALL couples, and leave “marriage” to the churches and other religions to define and award. To me, on the surface level at least, this best fits the stated values this country was built on, particularly as spelled out in the Declaration of Independence.

    However, recently, I have begun to realize the implications of a society’s actions in regard to whether or not its actions honor the Lord. This concept changes everything, in my mind – marriage, abortion, war are at the top of this long list. To me, then, the question still looms – do we who call ourselves “Christians” in America best serve Christ by fighting to make America itself a light unto His name? Or does the Great Commission challenge us instead to focus on bearing witness as individuals, perhaps forsaking the notion of a “Christian nation”?

    • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

      Good thoughts, Dan. If we hold a view of government as God’s agent (for justice, etc.), then I think that there are times when we would differ from the libertarian view.

  • http://flatratebiz.com Genuine Chris Johnson

    The government should be out of the Marriage business–certainly– at the federal level. If we live under a rule of law, and not fiat cum bias, it’s clear that there is no place for the Federal government in marriage.

    Opening the door to supporting things – even things you like- to Federal control is crap. Abortion certainly falls under the same specter- the states are left to regulate routine law enforcement issues without an amended constitution.

    The dishonest mental gyrations you have to undertake in order to justify federal control of most routine law enforcement issues is a path well traveled, so we needn’t talk about it.

    The name recognition is a nonissue- Sarah Palin had none in 2008.

    • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

      Chris, I disagree with your assessment of name recognition. You cannot compare Gary Johnson to Sarah Palin. The only reason Sarah Palin has the name recognition she does now is because she was the Vice Presidential nominee, not because she was in the race. If she were to have gotten in the race for president in 2008, she would now have the same name recognition as Jim Gilmore (governor of Virginia who ran in 2008) or Tommy Thompson (governor of Wisconsin who ran in 2008), or perhaps Mike Huckabee or Fred Thompson. It’s not a non-issue. If he doesn’t gain traction, he could drop out before any of the primaries (or after Iowa or New Hampshire), and people still wouldn’t know who he was.