For all the speculation about Rick Perry’s presidential potential, Gary Johnson feels certain the campaign would fall flat — if only because America isn’t ready to put another Texas governor in the White House.
“Have you ever heard Rick Perry talk? I thought when I listened to him talk, I thought he was doing a parody of George Bush. And I was looking around to see if anyone else saw the humor in that. And it wasn’t. It was just the way that he talked,” said Johnson, the former New Mexico governor who’s running his own long shot campaign.
That’s not Perry’s only problem: he’s another in a long list of “status quo,” politicians focused more on “fluff” than specifics, Johnson said in a conversation with POLITICO on Thursday, explaining why he’s running his own long shot presidential campaign against them.
Johnson also mocked Tim Pawlenty’s latest ad in Iowa for a line touting a decision to send Minnesota National Guard troops to defend the border.
“I live in New Mexico,” Johnson said. “Let me tell you, that was a waste of money.”
Johnson said he never sent his own National Guard troops to the border during his eight years as governor, “And if they would have requested it in Minnesota, I would have said, ‘You know, isn’t that an issue you should be dealing with?’” he said.
Though he’s a libertarian like Ron Paul, Johnson said that his resume and experience dealing with the blowback from signing 750 vetoes gave him more proof than Paul has that he’d be able to act on his ideology.
“Unlike Ron Paul, who registered his principled no vote and woke up the next day to do it again, I registered a no vote that actually stuck,” he said. “So the debate and the discussion was a little hotter.”
Johnson’s drawing single-digit support in early polls, if he registers at all. But all those are measuring so far, he said, is name recognition.
As for Herman Cain, who’s been doing well despite never holding office or running outside of Georgia, Johnson attributes that showing to having a name that sounds similar to one Republican voters already know well.
“I think Herman Cain, I think a lot of that has to do with ‘McCain,’” Johnson said.
Johnson’s fellow candidates aren’t the only ones he’s critical of — he called on Congress to resist raising the debt limit and instead just pass a resolution to pay interest on the debate and prioritize the nation’s obligations.
The candidate said he didn’t want to discount the hardship and market turmoil that would result in voting against the hike, but he said it will be “pale in comparison” to the bond market collapse when no one wants to buy U.S. debt.
“That is the collapse,” he said, predicting that the country’s AAA rating will get downgraded regardless.
As for his own future, Johnson is defiant. Even after failing to land a spot in the last GOP primary debate, the former New Mexico governor is convinced that his libertarian-leaning message will resonate with voters.
Johnson is concentrating on wooing independent-minded voters in New Hampshire, where he has three full-time staffers, one of whom is unpaid. While he’s skipping the Ames Straw Poll and not expecting to compete much in Iowa, Johnson’s hoping to be stage during the next Republican primary debate, right before Ames — though he was kept out of the last debate, in New Hampshire.
“This is the course that I’m plotting out there: at some point this would go viral,” he said.
Though he also acknowledged the reality that he hasn’t gone viral yet.
“It hasn’t even come close to doing that,” he said. “I’m like at zero.”