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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Libertarian prez candidate Gary Johnson in Tampa: Help me get on the polls!

Republican-turned-Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson says his campaign comes down to one figure: 15.

If he gets 15 percent in the national polls, the two-time Republican governor of New Mexico can appear in debates alongside President Barack Obama and all-but-settled Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Without that, he said Friday in Tampa, he's toast.

He encouraged the group of about 30 people -- some Libertarians, some Democrats, some just curious -- gathered for lunch at Gaspar's Grotto in Ybor City to call national polling companies and push them to include his name in their samples.

"Just ask them to include my name," he said. "That does not seem like such an onerous request."

Johnson became the Libertarian nominee in May. He's polling anywhere between 6 percent and 15 percent in some states, he said.

"I am but a spokesman for the liberty movement," he said. "If I had a button it would be, I am pro-choice with regard to everything."

His campaign will target some states for commercials, but Florida won't be one of them, Johnson said. Too expensive.

He was eager to point out his differences with Romney and Obama. He does not and has never supported an individual mandate for health insurance, he wants to repeal the Patriot Act, and he wants to abolish the Internal Revenue Service, corporate tax, income tax and other holdings in favor of a fair tax, to name a few.

"The base themselves, neither one of them are very excited about their candidate," said Alex Snitker, the Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Senate in 2010. "Gary's taking 'em from both sides."

The rest of Johnson's Friday itinerary was planned for Dunedin, where he was to throw out the first pitch of the Dunedin Blue Jays game and attend another reception at Blur/Chic-a-boom Room on Main Street.

He said he expects to attract supporters from Ron Paul when the Republican formally ends his campaign next month. Paul has not endorsed him.

More from Johnson's speech:

"I do think that there is an absolute valid alternative to the two parties, and it's me," he said. "I do have more executive governmental experience than the other two candidates combined, and that governmental experience is saying no to government spending."

"I'm the only candidate that wants to end the wars now ... I'm the only candidate that doesn't want to bomb Iran. I'm the only candidate that believes that marriage equality is something that is constitutionally guaranteed. I want to end the drug wars. I want to bring about meaningful immigration reform, with the basis that immigration is a good thing. ... I'm the only candidate that wants to balance the federal budget now, and that means taking on Medicare, Medicaid and military spending. I'm promising to submit a balanced budget to Congress in the year 2013, and that means a 43 percent reduction in military spending, believing that the biggest threat to our national security is the fact that we're borrowing and printing money to the tune of 43 cents to every dollar we're spending."

[Last modified: Friday, July 6, 2012 5:18pm]


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