Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee, said Thursday the key to winning his longshot bid for president is getting into the presidential debates this fall.
In a wide-ranging interview with POLITICO, the former two-term GOP governor said meeting the 15 percent national polling threshold set by the Commission on Presidential Debates is essential to his campaign since the debates are the only way to effectively get his message out.
“Anything can happen [in the debates]. That could be crash and burn. [Or] it could bring attention to what it is I am saying, my resume,” he said. “I think a lot more people in this country describe themselves as libertarian as opposed to voting libertarian. I think my voice is representative of the fastest growing segment of American politics today, which is libertarian.”
Johnson, who initially pursued the GOP 2012 presidential nomination, has staked out a position for himself as a fiscally conservative, anti-war candidate with a socially liberal bent: He supports abortion rights, backs gay marriage, and is a staunch proponent of legalizing marijuana.
“The majority of Americans are fiscally responsible, socially accepting. I’m in that category. That said, I’m different than the other two in several categories,” he said. “I’m the only candidate that doesn’t want to bomb Iran. I’m the only candidate that wants to get out of Afghanistan tomorrow, bring the troops home. I’m the only candidate that’s talking about marriage equality from the standpoint of it being a constitutionally guaranteed right. Let’s end the drugs wars. Let’s repeal the Patriot Act. I would have never signed Defense Authorization Act. Let’s balance the federal budget tomorrow. Let’s abolish the IRS. Let’s eliminate the income tax, corporate tax, and replace it with one federal consumption tax. These are big differences with the other two.”
Johnson asserted that he could win the race if he could raise $50 million – a fraction of what President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have raised already. If his campaign had the resources to do a large-scale buy for his campaign advertisements, like the spot called “Be Libertarian with Me,” his popularity would spike, he insisted.