National Press Club

Johnson says he remains viable in GOP presidential contest

August 19, 2011 | By Tim Young | timyoungjd@gmail.com

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican presidential candidate

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican presidential candidate

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson may be overlooked in the 2012 Republican presidental nomination race, but he's not counting himself out.

"I'm on the bubble," Johnson said at an Aug. 19 National Press Club luncheon. "Out of 184 candidates declared (to run for president), I'm like ninth in the rankings."

Johnson believes that next year's New Hampshire primary will make or break his campaign. He asserts that a candidate can go from "obscurity" to a major contender overnight with a win in that state.

Although a Republican, Johnson acknowledges being more aligned with libertarian principles. In his talk, he mentioned his support of gay unions and abortion rights and his belief in evolution as well as man-made global warming.

He also promoted the legalization of marijuana, which he said would end a majority of the border violence between the United States and Mexico.

"Illegalization of drugs is like prohibition," said Johnson, who insisted that by legalizing marijuana the United States would eliminate more than 70 percent of the illegal trafficking over the border.

In order to pay off the national debt, Johnson proposes a 43-percent across-the-board budget cut. He said he would back controversial cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. For the latter, he would give states block grants to distribute to their most needy citizens.

Johnson also supports the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya --conflicts he said the U.S. should not be a part of.

He added that the United States has too many troops on the ground in Europe -- more than 100,000. Their presence has allowed European countries to improve their infrastructure without needing to build up their militaries.

When asked why he did not take part in the recent Iowa straw poll with other Republican candidates, Johnson replied that it was "too expensive," citing the $35,000 charge to rent a booth and the high ticket prices for supporters.

He took a jab at recent Club luncheon speaker and fellow GOP presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann by noting that she purchased more than 6,000 expensive tickets for her supporters to attend and vote for her in the straw poll.

He revealed that he has been invited to future debates, which will give him a forum to make his case that he is the best candidate.

"This is my pitch to all of you, I wouldn't be standing here if I didn't think I could do this job," Johnson said.