Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s (D-NM) decision to retire raises an interesting question for former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. Right now, Republicans who are libertarians, constitutional conservatives or antiwar have three major national figures: Johnson, Ron Paul, and Rand Paul. It currently looks like two of those leaders — Johnson and the elder Paul — will run for president. But should Johnson instead set his sights on joining Rand in the Senate?
Johnson could conceivably win the Republican nomination for the Senate seat. It would then be within the realm of possibility for him to win the general election too. Neither of those things are possible in the presidential race. If both Paul and Johnson run for president, the best thing that could happen — from the perspective of promoting their shared ideas — is that they form a tag team in the debates. The worst is that they just split the liberty vote.
I’ve made my case before that a second Ron Paul GOP presidential campaign would be more effective than a first Gary Johnson one. There are obvious counterarguments, such as that Paul should run for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat in Texas instead (one poll shows him within the margin of error of the primary lead). Moreover, the chances of this happening are probably slim to zero: once the presidential bug bites a politician, they have trouble running for little things like the Senate. But it seems to me that a nascent movement would benefit more from having two senators than two presidential candidates.