Could Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson complicate matters for the GOP in 2012? Sure. But that would require Johnson to earn a much larger share among a general public that is paying less attention to politics than he’s earning among the GOP base right now.
Still, Johnson appeared in GOP debates in September and May, and neither appearance launched him to new heights. At some point, the whole “the media is keeping him down” narrative stops working; the media is addicted to conflict, charisma, and bold ideas, and it’s dubious to contend that the same political environment that allowed Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain to grab the spotlight and enjoy time as a frontrunner somehow was too closed-minded to give a guy like Johnson a chance.
Or, as I laid out in the Jolt . . .
Whats-His-Name Shocks GOP Presidential Race by Leaving Party, Will Run as Libertarian
You GOP primary voters can’t reject Gary Johnson; he quits!
Politico: “Gary Johnson will quit the Republican primaries and seek the Libertarian Party nomination instead, POLITICO has learned. The former two-term New Mexico governor, whose campaign for the GOP nomination never caught fire, will make the announcement at a press conference in Santa Fe on Dec. 28. Libertarian state directors will be informed of Johnson’s plans on a conference call Tuesday night, a Johnson campaign source told POLITICO.”
Public Policy Polling surveyed on just this scenario: “It’s clear there’s a lot more desire for a third party candidate from conservative voters than Obama supporters. The strongest third party hopeful beyond the 3 in double digits is Gary Johnson who gets 9%. The three folks we tested who might presumably have more appeal to the left come in at 8% for Michael Bloomberg, 7% for Bernie Sanders, and 4% for Rocky Anderson.”
In a head to head matchup, PPP has Romney ahead of Obama 47 percent to 45 percent; with Johnson as a third-party option, Obama leads, 43 percent to 41 percent.
“Shoulda let him in debates!” quips Dave Weigel.
Andy Lancaster: “Libertarian? What is @GovGaryJohnson smoking? Oh, right . . .”
Nathan Wurtzel thinks his potential role is overstated, considering how things turn out when the country is tired of a failed liberal president: “Remember when John Anderson cost Reagan the election? Bye Gary Johnson!” Of course, that year, the Republicans had Reagan.
Exurban Jon: “Where does Gary Johnson go when he loses the Libertarian Party nomination?”