Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, an avid athlete who climbed Mt. Everest and has a strong libertarian bent, announced Thursday that that he will seek the GOP nomination for president, expanding an already crowded field.
Johnson, 58, made his announcement on the steps of the New Hampshire State House, and like his fellow libertarian Republican Ron Paul, made extensive use of email and Twitter to notify potential followers.
“Today's mess didn't just happen. We elected it -- one senator, member of Congress and president at a time,” Johnson said in a statement. “Our leaders in Washington, D.C., have ‘led' America to record unemployment, a devalued currency, banking scandals, the mortgage crisis, drug crisis, economic crisis, loss of our nation's industrial might -- and a long list of other reminders our nation is way off course.”
According to a Gallup poll released this week, Johnson ranked last among 14 possible candidates in name recognition, hovering between 12% and 14%. Ranked highest was Sarah Palin, at 96% name recognition, though name recognition doesn’t always translate into popularity. Most polls place Palin in the first tier of four or five possible contenders and Johnson well back in the pack, though no one is running away with the nomination.
Still, name recognition does count for something. Witness the rapid rise of Donald Trump from political obscurity to one of the leaders in the race for the GOP nomination and in some polls, the top possibility. Trump, the businessman and self-promoting reality television star, stands out and is the most visible of the GOP names, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center for People & the Press. Trump was cited by 26% of all Americans as a potential GOP presidential candidate. Among Republicans he was named by 39%, more than all other GOP candidates combined.
Governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003, Johnson has spent much of the last year traveling the country as part of a campaign for his group, Our America Initiative. His candidacy also crowds the part of the field held by the party’s right flank. Johnson is considered one of the political heirs of Paul, a Republican congressman from Texas and libertarian phenomenon, who is also a possible presidential candidate, as is his son, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
In his Twitter announcements, Johnson laid out his program, calling for smaller federal government and more freedom in people’s personal lives. “The notion that Washington knows best has put us in the place that we are in right now, which is bankrupt,” he tweeted. Johnson has competed in several triathlons, marathons and bike races. In 2003, he reached the summit of Mt. Everest.