Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson thinks Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump could be his ticket to having a significant effect on the 2016 race.
“If the Libertarian candidate for president ever — ever! — has a chance of getting elected or getting prominence on the national stage to actually profess what is to be a Libertarian, it would be Bernie Sanders vs. Donald Trump,” Johnson told Business Insider in a recent interview.
“I mean, that would be the Libertarian wet dream,” he quipped of the scenario.
Johnson ran for president as a Republican in 2012 before changing teams and running as the Libertarian Party’s nominee. He dropped by Business Insider’s office at the end of last month to pitch his second campaign for the White House.
“I don’t want to be tilting at windmills, right? There are better things to do,” Johnson said. “But in this case, I think that at the end of the day, I will end up being the voice of reason in all of this.”
The former governor said he had a “horrible” time running in 2012 and trying go grab attention as a Republican. As a Libertarian, he ultimately grabbed about 1% of the votes cast — a bit under 1.3 million votes.
Without self-funding his campaign like Ross Perot in the 90s, most political observers would predict that Johnson, if he gets the Libertarian nomination, would again suffer the fate of virtually every other third-party presidential candidate in recent history.
But Johnson argued that either of the top-two Democratic presidential candidates — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — would contrast well with a Libertarian contender if real-estate mogul Donald Trump were the Republican nominee.
“None of this may transpire, right. But if Trump is the nominee, and if Hillary is the nominee — and I think there is certainty about Hillary, unless there’s an assassination, and I’m not wishing that upon her — I think people are going to look to: ‘Well, what is the other choice?'” he predicted.
“Keep in mind, too, that the biggest political affiliation in the United States is independent,” he added. “Well, who is the third party? Well, the Libertarians are the third party. The Libertarians are going to be on the ballot in all 50 states.”
Johnson also said he was suing to get into the general-election debates, which are typically one-on-one matchups between the Republican and Democratic candidates.
He said a prominent constitutional lawyer, Bruce Fein, had already filed a lawsuit against the Commission on Presidential Debates based on “the notion that they are a business and that they collude with one another to exclude everyone else.”
Johnson added: “Our contention is that if you’re on the ballot on enough states to be mathematically elected, then shouldn’t you be included in the presidential debates?”
Johnson stressed that he still has to win the Libertarian Party’s nomination, for which he is competing against a host of other candidates.
In order to make his campaign strategy more effective this time, Johnson said he decided to home in on New York-based national media outlets — including Business Insider and the Fox Business Network — instead of calling into internet-radio stations or convincing voters one by one.
He said of his 2012 race:
I’m not putting myself through it again. So when you go back and when I relive the four years that I put into running for president the first time — first as a Republican and then shifting over to a Libertarian — in retrospect, 90% of the time I spent doing that was wasted time.
“The most valuable time that I spent last cycle was New York,” he said.
Johnson, who started his own medical marijuana business in 2014, also told Business Insider that his company’s brand — “hi” — would outlive even Trump’s brand.
“We have the coolest brand name out there. It’s a brand name that’s going to survive 1,000 years from now. And it’s, ‘hi,'” he said.
“We think we’ll sell a billion dollars worth of T-shirts at some point,” the former governor added, “because it’s really cool schwag.”
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