Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson asks Tampa supporters to help him get on presidential polls

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson stands for a photo Friday with Trisha Kirby of Clearwater during a luncheon meet and greet in Tampa.


Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson stands for a photo Friday with Trisha Kirby of Clearwater during a luncheon meet and greet in Tampa.

TAMPA — Gary Johnson is still the longest of long shots to become president.

But now that the former two-term Republican governor is running as a Libertarian, he says success starts with just one number: 15.

If Johnson can snag 15 percent in national polls, the man known as New Mexico's "Governor Veto" can appear in debates alongside President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

So he took the somewhat strange step of urging a group of 30 people Friday in Ybor City to support him — simply by calling polling companies.

"Just ask them to include my name," he said from the stage of Gaspar's Grotto.

Johnson's party affiliation has changed, but his positions haven't. As he describes it, he's "pro-choice with regard to everything."

What hurts his chances is that Americans really have become accustomed to just two choices for president. Libertarian Party candidates have surpassed 1 percent of the vote in national elections just once. If Johnson gets 5 percent of the vote in November, though, the party gets public funding in 2016.

Johnson's name was included in a Gallup poll, taken June 7 to 10, along with Obama, Romney and two other lesser-known candidates. He polled at 3 percent.

Johnson says "entrenched interests" are to blame for the dominance of the two-party system. Then there's the media, and particularly CNN, which he blames for arbitrarily shutting him out of GOP debates last year and cutting audio of an endorsement from independent politician Jesse Ventura. His supporters plan to protest at CNN's Atlanta headquarters this month.

For his third-party platform to survive, Johnson will need the grass roots — people who are proud to tell their family and friends that they voted for someone out of the norm.

"I think that will go a long way toward reassuring the American people that yes, this is viable, this is not fringe, this is not kooky. This is basically what our country was founded upon," said Adrian Wyllie, Libertarian Party of Florida chairman.

Johnson — wearing Levi's jeans, a Nike polo, sneakers and a yellow Livestrong band — pointed out policy differences between himself, Romney and Obama for the crowd. He does not support an individual mandate for health insurance, he wants to get out of Afghanistan immediately, he wants to repeal the Patriot Act, and he wants one "fair tax" on consumption, for starters. Johnson also supports the legalization of marijuana.

He said he would devolve control of Medicare and Medicaid to the states — but not before cutting the programs' budgets by 43 percent. Drastic? Yes. But necessary, he says.

He commended Gov. Rick Scott, who has said he will not implement the Medicaid expansion permissible under the new health care law.

"The money gets phased out, and you're stuck with a bill with no money," said Johnson, who will focus his campaign in more libertarian-leaning places than Florida such as New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Montana and Alaska.

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

"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.

During a question and answer session, Scott Allen, a 55-year-old Libertarian from Polk County, asked Johnson to describe his libertarian epiphany story. Johnson described reading libertarian materials in the 1970s that applied to him.

"Then there is that epiphany that all of us have had, and that is, rolling up to a stoplight in the middle of the night," he said. "There's no cars coming, and you've got a red light. And, okay, so you stop, but is it okay to go? Yeah, it's okay to go.

"And that's Libertarian."

Katie Sanders can be reached at

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson asks Tampa supporters to help him get on presidential polls 07/06/12 [Last modified: Friday, July 6, 2012 10:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays DFA Danny Farquhar to make room for Brad Boxberger


    The Rays continued shuffling their bullpen, dumping RHP Danny Farquhar after Wednesday's game to make room for RHP Brad Boxberger to be activated off the DL.

    Farquhar, who worked an inning in Wednesday's 6-2 loss, had a 2-2, 4.11 record for 37 appearances, working primarily in lower leverage situations. In …

  2. USF to face Indiana in men's basketball next season


    The USF men's basketball team will get an early test from a Big Ten powerhouse next season.

  3. Rays employee helps save suicidal woman near Pirates stadium


    A Rays front-office employee joined umpire John Tumpane in saving a woman threatening to jump from a bridge near PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

    Multimedia production manager Mike Weinman, 32, was walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge with Rays broadcasting director Larry McCabe when he …

  4. Blake Snell struggles in return as Rays fall to Pirates

    The Heater


    Blake Snell talked a good game ahead of his return to the Rays rotation Wednesday night, but he didn't pitch one.

    The Pirates’ David Freese scores on a Blake Snell wild pitch during the first inning against the Rays.
  5. College World Series title puts Florida Gators in elite company


    The Florida Gators put themselves in rare company with Tuesday night's College World Series national championship victory.

    Florida ace and Tampa native Alex Faedo (21) lets loose with his teammates after they win the Gators’ first baseball national title.