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Presidential hopeful Gary Johnson meets area residents

Art McGrath/The Courier Republican Presidential hopeful Gary Johnson, of New Mexico, left, talks to Franconia resident Paul O’Hara in Franconia last Wednesday. (click for larger version)
June 25, 2011
FRANCONIA—Last Wednesday Gary Johnson, a Republican presidential hopeful from New Mexico, was making his case to area residents about why he should receive the party's nomination for president.

Johnson was at Jack McEnamy's house on Bickford Hill Road. About 10 people came out to hear the former New Mexico governor the day after the Republican debate, which he had been kept out of because of poll numbers.

Those poll numbers shouldn't matter, he said, noting previous politicians who had similar numbers at this stage of the campaign.

"It's natural people recognize some familiar names in a poll. By our calculations, Dukakis, Carter and Clinton wouldn't have been in the debate either going by poll numbers," Johnson said, referring to three previous governors who all went on to win their party's nomination for president. All three were Democrats, however.

A victory in New Hampshire will change name recognition, he said, and do much to propel a lesser-known candidate to national prominence.

Several people commented on two issues that separate Johnson from most of the other Republican candidates—his pro-choice stance on abortion and his support of gay marriage. Most Republicans in the race, except for fellow libertarian Ron Paul, are on the opposite side of those issues.

On the issue of abortion, Johnson said he respects a woman's right to choose but at the same time does not feel passionately about it.

"It's not my issue," Johnson said.

Johnson said while he may have different views from his fellow candidates, he believes they are more in sync with where many ordinary Republicans stand. Most of them are more concerned with the budget and the state of the economy, he said. Once in the general election he said he is the candidate with the best chance of beating President Barack Obama.

Paul O'Hara, of Franconia, suggested Johnson align himself more closely with the Tea Party, whose main emphasis is also economic issues.

Johnson said he is willing to talk to anyone and noted that in New Mexico, he won without the support of establishment Republicans. Unlike many politicians, he said he is willing to admit he can change his mind on an issue. He gave his views on the death penalty as an example. Philosophically and in theory he supports the death penalty but he said the government couldn't be trusted to fairly carry it out.

"Unquestionably the government has put innocent people to death," Johnson said.

While many describe Johnson as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, he said he is more of a classical liberal and noted that those who are commonly termed liberals these days are anything but liberal by the classical definition, as they support government intervention in the economy and else.where He said he believes in free markets and that the market will always fix itself faster and more efficiently than government.

Quoting Thomas Jefferson, Johnson said his political philosophy is, "That government is best which governs least."

To that end, Johnson endorsed Paul during the 2008 primary. He noted, however, that the Texas congressman got only 8 percent of the vote. He thinks this time around maybe a different messenger with the same message might resonate with more people.

He said the United States has created a welfare and entitlement state that is bankrupting us and that "it would be very doable" to implement good government.

Because of the state of the economy and the debt, many more people are willing to support hard choices. He is willing to make those choices and veto as many bills in Congress as necessary, if that is what must be done to control spending.

"I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I couldn't do the job," Johnson said. "What comes of this? Who is to say?"

AJ Coleman
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Varney Smith
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