Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson has become the Rodney Dangerfield of the 2012 election — he can’t get any respect. Either as a Republican or as the Libertarian party nominee for president he has now become.
First, the mountain climber and triathlete was muscled out of the gold medal he thought he had a lock on. Ron Paul’s decision to run in the GOP primaries at age 77 guaranteed the Texas congressman would be the top-dog libertarian in the race. Johnson participated in two cable-news debates, but was mostly excluded from them because of low polling numbers. That created a Catch 22 for his candidacy. Without TV exposure he couldn’t raise money for ads to tell people about his fairly successful two terms as New Mexico’s chief executive. Without money, he couldn’t possibly compete with Ron Paul’s direct mail and Internet machine.
Things haven’t been much better for him as the Libertarian nominee. He shows up as a trace element in national polls, with most supporters of Ron Paul deciding to go with Mitt Romney in order to eject President Obama from the White House.
Even in New Mexico, the latest Public Policy Polling survey finds him at 13 percent of the vote, down from 25 percent earlier this year. As Johnson’s vote shrinks, it turns out it appears to have drawn from a more Democratic-leaning voter base that may be attracted to his stands against the PATRIOT Act and for legalizing drugs. He gets 24 percent of the independent vote in the Silver State, with much of it coming from Democratic-leaning independents. His strong showing with that group has helped narrow Obama’s lead in the state to only five points, way down from his previous lead of 15 points.
Obama’s personal ratings have taken a hit in the state as his issue profile becomes better known. Only 41 percent of voters in this most Hispanic of states support his more lenient immigration policy and only 42 percent liked the Supreme Court’s decision upholding Obamacare.
As for Johnson, he shows no sign of letting up on campaigning. He tells supporters that “success starts with just one number: 15.” That is the percentage of the vote Johnson needs in national polls to appear in the debates this fall. To that end, he is urging people to call polling companies on his behalf: “Just ask them to include my name.”
An imaginative idea, but one that isn’t likely to move the pollsters to change their stance. But Johnson still may have an impact on the race, especially if the New Mexico results are duplicated in other states and show him drawing more votes from President Obama than one would normally think.