A preview of the Libertarian Party convention and a likely Gary Johnson presidential nomination
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It looks like former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is going to be nominated as the Libertarian Party’s choice for President during the party convention on Saturday (May 5) in Las Vegas, NV.
*What exactly does the Libertarian Party stand for?
The short answer is “maximum freedom, minimum government.” That’s the slogan of the party that, in its platform, looks to “challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual.”
Here’s more from the Libertarian Party website:
We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.
Speaking broadly, libertarians are suspicious of big government solutions and are staunch fiscal conservatives (which puts them sideways with many Democrats) and social liberals who think the government should leave responsible adults alone to make their own personal decisions on social issues and generally call for a non-interventionist foreign policy (which puts them in contrast with many rank and file Republicans).
According to Ballot Access News, there were 278,446 registered Libertarians in the US in 2010, more than some might expect but, still, a tiny number (.28 percent) compared to Democrats and Republicans.
But Libertarians are quick to point out that the number of undecided and independent voters continue to grow and they hope to snare people turned off by the two major parties.
“Neither party is offering up solutions,” Johnson told us back in December when he switched from the GOP to the Libertarians, citing a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll reporting that 61 percent of Americans say they’re open to voting for a third-party candidate.
*Will the Libertarian nominee for president be on the ballot across the country?
In the 1980 presidential election, the Libertarian ticket was on all 50 states, becoming the first third-party to appear in every state ballot since 1916. In 2008, the party nominee was on the ballot in 45 states. In the 2012 election, the party’s website lists 29 states thus far that post the Libertarian presidential candidate on their ballots.
*But has the Libertarian Party ever made an impact in a presidential race?
The straight answer is no. Since the party came into existence in the early 1970s, its candidates have never received more than 1.1 percent of the vote in a presidential race.
*So what makes Johnson think he can make a dent?
Should Johnson get the nomination, he’s hoping to muscle his way onto the podium alongside President Obama and likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney in three scheduled presidential debates that attract a worldwide audience.
To get on the stage, Johnson is counting on what we dubbed earlier this year as his “15 percent strategy.”
You see, the debates are run by a group called the Commission on Presidential Debates and it has specific qualifications for candidates to earn an appearance, including a requirement that a candidate “have a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations.”
If Johnson can build some momentum and reach that magical 15 percent threshold from organizations such as Gallup, he will find himself getting a national platform to espouse his limited government/free market/individual rights agenda — something the Libertarian Party has never had before.
But that will be a high hurdle to clear. On one hand, in January Public Policy Polling showed Johnson at 9 percent – a pretty good starting point. But in PPP’s most recent poll in March, that number dipped to 7 percent.
But Johnson’s biggest problem figures to be getting the major polling outfits to simply include his name with Obama and Romney when it asks voters who they want to see as president.
That’s what killed Johnson when he tried to compete with Republican candidates for a spot on dais in GOP debates in 2011. Networks and Republican leadership regularly withheld invitations to Johnson, saying his poll numbers were barely registering. But as Capitol Report New Mexico was the first to point out in a story we posted last October, virtually all of the polling organizations didn’t even bother to include Johnson’s name when they surveyed potential voters.
It’s kind of hard to poll well when the pollsters don’t list your name.
Making sure that doesn’t happen again is crucial for Johnson, should he win the Libertarian nomination.
*Does Johnson have a running mate?
Earlier this week, Gray told the libertarian magazine and online journal Reason:
I agreed to run only if we were going to run to win. I am not going to do this “Let’s have a moral victory” stuff. I believe, and I think [Johnson] agrees, that we have a good, solid 1.5 percent chance of winning this election.
Where he came up with the 1.5 percent number, we don’t know but Gray is well-respected and well-known among party regulars.
*Who else is running against Johnson?
There are four other candidates. Bob Barr, the former congressman from Georgia, who was the party’s nominee in 2008, is not running this year.
Here’s a quick video with soundbites from all five candidates for president, produced by the Libertarian Party:
*Finally, where will the party convention in Vegas be located?
At the Red Rock Casino, off The Strip. Given the Libertarian Party’s adherence to fiscal conservatism, I’ll let you know if the champagne flows.
I have a feeling it will not resemble a GSA extravaganza.
Posted under Capitol Report.
Tags: ABC News, Ballot Access News, Barack Obama, Bob Barr, Capitol Report New Mexico, Commission on Presidential Debates, Gallup, Gary Johnson, Judge Jim Gray, Libertarian Party, Mitt Romney, Public Policy Polling, Reason, Red Rock Casino, Washington Post, Wikipedia