The Spectacle Blog

Gary Johnson, Up in Smoke

By on 12.7.10 | 12:00PM

I like Gary Johnson. He was a good governor in New Mexico and I still think he could be a positive force in Congress. But John McCormack's Weekly Standard profile shows that Johnson is badly positioned to make a credible presidential run.

We get Johnson's recent marijuana use (from 2005 to 2008) in the headline. While I don't have a problem with that, lots of Republican primary voters will. And it isn't exactly a very presidential image. Johnson,  who signed many pro-life bills as governor of New Mexico, identifies himself as pro-choice until viability. He comes close to calling for the defense budget to be cut in half. Then he embraces humanitarian interventions, which is sure to repel his natural constituency among non-interventionist conservatives.

The main advantage of Johnson over Ron Paul was that he was supposed to bring non-interventionist conservative arguments closer to the mainstream, even if Johnson wouldn't necessarily win the Republican nomination. But given these idiosyncrasies, Johnson might actually be a less effective messenger in the primary process than Paul, who is socially more conservative and whose personal life is more conventional.

As Dan McCarthy points out, "instead of the Johnson-Paul tag team making anti-statist and anti-interventionist views more mainstream, Johnson might sidetrack Paul into discussions that would make it easier for the party establishment to marginalize both of them." I've argued before that Johnson might struggle to hold the Paul coalition together, much less make inroads within the GOP.  The McCormack piece seems to seal it.

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