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Gary Johnson: The Guy Who Barack Obama Should Fear Most

Gary Johnson: The Guy That Barack Obama Should Fear Most

Former Republican Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson announced his intention to run on the Republican ticket for President in 2012 to a crowd estimated at 18 people. Here’s why Barack Obama should be good and scared of this dark-horse candidate.

I was in the sports news business working out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, when Gary Johnson was the governor of the state. A rancher from the Northern part of the state, he went after the old-boy political machine run by the Spanish who have run things in New Mexico since the conquistador Don Juan de Oñate marched into the area that became Santa Fe in 1598.

As governor, Johnson was a strong fiscal conservative, and a social moderate. He had broad appeal, even amongst centrist Democrats, many of whom crossed party lines and voted for him.  He was laid back. He shunned the Governor’s mansion and the entourage which were a hallmark of Bill Richardson’s tenure as governor of New Mexico. In fact, on a Sunday,  more often than not you could find the Gov sitting at a table at Bagelmania in Downtown Santa Fe, reading the paper and having breakfast with his wife.  He took the time to say hello, and even asked about your kids.

That belies the toughness with which he ran the ship of state in New Mexico.  The legislature there only meets for a few weeks each year.  Johnson routinely used his veto powers to threaten the legislature into coming to terms with tough issues when the partisanship fractured the Round House.

National political analysts still mislabel Johnson as your Dr. Paul fringe candidate.  True, Johnson has been an advocate over the last year for the legalization of Marijuana, a controversial stance which even President Obama has shied away from, which definitely alienates him from many in the fundamentalist religious base of the national GOP. It does, however, open the door for him with many liberals who are dissatisfied with Mr. Obama, and many independent voters, and he approaches the issue from a tax-dollars bottom line, which might even find a few libertarian and fiscal conservative adherents.

Johnson is making the calculation that the pack of ultra-Right partisans with their hat in the ring or putting their toe in the water may have what it takes to appease various fragments of the extreme wing of the party that runs from the Tea Party to the Birthers to Corporate types like the Koch Brothers.  What most running don’t have though right now, is electability in a general election.

Mitt Romney, arguably the front-runner in current polls at around 16%, is a fatally-flawed candidate.  Religious zealots don’t like his Mormonism.  He will not easily explain away Romneycare to the Health Care bashers.  He would almost certainly have to run to the far Right to get the nomination, then spend the next year running away from everything that he just said to win the general.

Johnson is going to have a tough time surviving the primaries, particularly navigating the crazy waters of the fractious Tea Party.  His tough, common-sense, low-key style worked in New Mexico, though, at a time when that state suffered from much of the same kind of partisan divide that the federal government experiences now.

His downside is that his style, his business acumen as a rancher, and his limited experience in the bigger shark tank of party politics may play well to folks who want more outsiders in government, but may make it very difficult for him to raise money, get much media attention, or even run a country controlled by insiders if he beats the deck stacked against him and succeeds.

Still, he is going to win converts. If he makes it to the general election, he has enough expertise at wooing skeptical independents and even fiscally conservative liberals into taking a serious look at him.

And he’d get Bill Maher’s vote for the pot position.

My shiny two.

About Brian Ross

Brian Ross is a writer, screenwriter, political satirist, documentarian, filmmaker and chef. Ad hoc, ad loc, quid pro quo... so little time. So much to know!

4 comments on “Gary Johnson: The Guy Who Barack Obama Should Fear Most

  1. Jeff Moe
    April 23, 2011

    Great article, but I think it contains an error.

    Gary Johnson wasn’t a rancher, as far as I know. I do know he was in the construction business. He started out as a handyman while in college and turned that into a business with 1,000 employees. His first big break was to build Intel’s factory for the 286 processor–an extremely complicated construction job, no doubt. The company, which he has since sold, is still in business, focussing on complex projects.

  2. Julie H.
    April 27, 2011

    He can’t beat Obama.

  3. Niles Aronson
    November 2, 2011

    Gary Johnson started a one man handy-man business and turned it into the states largest construction company. After selling it, none of the 1200 employees lost their job, and they are still today doing quite successful (for as well as you can in this economy). Hes not a politician, hes a regular guy that is fed up with the way our government does things. He fixed it for eight years in New Mexico, and he oddly enough WANTS to fix it in DC. Which is awesome by my account.

    • Brian Ross
      November 3, 2011


      Gary is a great guy. I used to see him every Sunday at Bagelmania in Santa Fe, sitting around in his running sweats and reading the paper while he had breakfast with his wife. He always asked about my kids, even when they didn’t come with me. While he was governor. Still, that legalizing pot thing is going to be a boat anchor around his neck with the Hard Right GOP. If he can’t get any debate time with the other candidates, as seems to continuously happen, he’s dead in the water, even with friends like you.

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