The Republican Party has bought itself unnecessary trouble through its high-handed treatment of a fine public servant. Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson (no relation) is running for the GOP presidential nomination — but you’d never know it based on the debates. Gov. Johnson has been invited to exactly two of the Republican primary debates, both hosted by Fox News. In the second, he memorably said, “My neighbor’s two dogs have created more shove-ready jobs” than Obama.
Otherwise, he has been systematically excluded from the debates on the grounds that his poll numbers are too low. then again, his name does not appear on the polls the companies use to determine who can participate, making his exclusion a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Now, Johnson is seriously considering seeking the Libertarian Party presidential nomination in 2012. He told the Santa Fe New Mexican:
“I feel abandoned by the Republican Party,” Johnson said in a phone interview. “The Republican Party has left me by the wayside”…
“If I’d have been included in 16 of the last debates we wouldn’t even be having this conversation,” Johnson said.
In other words, his potential third party run was totally avoidable and should be laid directly at the feet of the GOP establishment.
Johnson once told me whenever the networks hold a GOP debate — which is approximately every seven hours — “It appears as though they all get together and invoke the ‘Gary Johnson Rule,’ which is: How do we exclude Gary Johnson from the debate? I’m just getting this sense that they actually sit down ahead of time and come up with the rule after they take a look at me. I can’t help but think that.”
Johnson at times scored higher than competitors like Jon Huntsman, who has appeared in every single debate.
When Johnson appealed to the Republican National Convention for help in being included, Republican Party counsel John R. Phillippe Jr. replied by letter: “We simply have to have some minimum criteria in order for candidates to participate in these debates. Otherwise, the debates would be utter chaos and unhelpful to Republican voters as we select our nominee.”
Some criteria? How about serving two terms as the popular governor of a heavily Democratic swing state? How about defying the free-spending Bush years by vetoing more bills than all other governors combined?
Including Gary Johnson in the debates would have allowed him to feel he had had his say and exposed the Republican Party to some unique ideas. Johnson has shown real leadership by grabbing the third rail of GOP politics and proposing a military spending reduction of 43 percent — paid for by allowing Europe to defend itself for the first time since the Adolf took his final glance at Eva. After nearly 70 years, it’s time for Germany and France to see if they can develop their own Greatest Generation. Gov. Johnson opposed King Obama’s war-by-decree in Libya from the beginning, as he did with Iraq. (He favored Afghanistan.)
He also has a cornucopia of issues that would keep him from winning the Republican presidential nomination barring anything short of a miracle. He is pro-choice on abortion, which alone disqualifies him for many Republican voters. He favors drug legalization and used medicinal marijuana himself, although San Francisco’s prescription pot mills show where that road ends. He endorsed same-sex “marriage.”, claiming “denying those rights and benefits to gay couples is discrimination, plain and simple.” (There are plenty of reasons for the state to maintain the status quo on an institution that dates to the dawn of time other than “discrimination,” Governor Johnson.)
The GOP establishment could have easily allowed him to debate, fail to catch fire, then let him feel he had his chance, and the voters had spoken. If he sought the Libertarian nod, many would dismiss him as a political opportunist. Instead, he feels justifiably excluded and is considering a course that could see him drain meaningful support from Republicans in the general election — all because the party elite did not want a second candidate on the stage who sounded like Ron Paul.
Discussing how his ideology would shape his hypothetical third party run, he said, “I’m really speaking here with a broad brush, but anti-war, supporting a woman’s right to choose, gay marriage — that’s taking away from the Democratic base.”
But, he added, “I might be taking votes away from the fiscal Republicans.”
In a closely contested election like 2012, the GOP cannot afford to lose a single Republican vote. If the Gary Johnson flap costs it a single vote, the GOP brought it on itself.