Photo: Flickr Gage Skidmore
When former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson takes the stage at Thursday night’s GOP debate, many viewers will likely have the same simultaneous reaction: Who the heck is that?That’s because Johnson has only been invited to one of the handful of GOP debates so far this year, and even at that debate, he complained halfway through that the moderators were asking him far fewer questions than they were asking the other candidates.
Debate organisers have typically cited Johnson’s low poll numbers as a reason for excluding him. Yet Johnson has tied or outperformed other candidates who have been invited to every debate, including Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich, prompting Fox to finally invite him back on stage.
So who is Gary Johnson?
Johnson, a former two-term governor of New Mexico, is a Republican with a heavy libertarian slant. He’s advocated repealing the minimum wage, gutting unemployment benefits, and drastically cutting or even eliminating the Department of Education. HIs states rights agenda also calls for block granting Medicare and Medicaid funds directly to states so that they, rather than the federal government, can determine how the money is spent.
On taxes, Johnson supports the so-called Fair Tax, a policy that would eliminate corporate and personal income taxes, replacing them with a tax on purchases. Though he was excluded from the last GOP debate on September 12, he responded to the debate questions via Twitter. When one candidate on stage was asked if he would support the Fair Tax, Johnson tweeted, “Yes!!!!!!!!!!!! Fair tax”
Like Ron Paul, Johnson’s libertarian beliefs sometimes rankle the Republican establishment. Notably, he’s called for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and advocated the legalization of marijuana. He’s even admitted to smoking marijuana while it was illegal in New Mexico to deal with pain from a fractured bone.
Additionally, Johnson is the only Republican presidential candidate who does not identify himself as “pro-life.” Johnson, by contrast, supports the right for a woman to have an abortion up until the point of, “viability of a foetus.”
With his campaign failing to gain traction over the summer, Johnson went on Fox News and debated a Barack Obama impersonator in what was perhaps the most bizarre incident of his insurgent campaign.
Johnson typically comes in at just one per cent in polls of the Republican primary. Fox invited him to Thursday’s debate despite objections from the Florida GOP. However, the state party still has full control over the subsequent Florida straw poll, and they have said they won’t add Johnson to that ballot.
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