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Caucus 2012 voter's guide: Gary Johnson

BY ERIC MOORE | DECEMBER 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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Many of former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson's stances on social issues make him more liberal than most GOP candidates, but one pundit says Johnson's greatest downfall may be his similarity to fellow Iowa caucus candidate Ron Paul.

David Peterson, the interim director of the Harkin Institute of Public Policy at Iowa State University, said though Johnson's stances on issues set him apart from many other candidates, many socially liberal or libertarian voters will vote for Paul before they would vote for Johnson.

"There isn't necessarily something that is a stark difference between the two of them on an issue that a noticeable number of people in the Republican caucus or Republican primary really care about," Peterson said. "Paul has been the more popular person. He's been there first, he's better-known, he's better-financed."

Trailing Paul and the rest of the candidates in most polls, Johnson's media profile and fundraising has lagged behind most of the rest of the GOP pack.

"He is running a campaign on issues. He is running a campaign based on what he would do if he were president," Peterson said. "You could run a campaign based on charisma and ads, and those kinds of things if you have the money to enable you to do it."

Johnson breaks from the rest of the Iowa caucus pack on some key issues. The former governor of a border state, Johnson pushes for more lenient immigration policy. He's also in favor of same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization.

Creator of IowaMedicalMarijuana.org Carl Olsen agrees with Johnson's views on marijuana but said federal policy might not be the best way to fix the problem: "This is not a federal issue; it's a state's rights issue.

"The idea that the president will issue some kind of executive order is nonsense. I don't think he's got a chance, but it's going to take more than a president to fix this."

But if Johnson does have any advantage over fellow libertarian Paul, Olsen said, it's Johnson's hands-on approach to the issue of marijuana legalization.

"The thing that Gary Johnson has done is he has attended a lot more marijuana-legalization events than Ron Paul," Olsen said.

Johnson, who admitted to illegally using marijuana for health reasons, detailed some of his reasons for support in a debate held earlier this year.

"Ninety percent of the drug problem is prohibition-related, not use-related," he said. "… so I advocate legalizing marijuana: control it, regulate it, tax it."

On another issue where Johnson breaks from the GOP, immigration, the former businessman said the federal government needs to offer more opportunities for foreigners to work here legally.

"Immigration needs to be about work, not welfare," Johnson said. "With regard to the 11 million illegal immigrants who are here in this country right now, I think we need to recognize that the government's the main reason they're here illegally, it has made it impossible to get a work visa."

Johnson has struggled throughout the campaign to earn media attention. He's also been shut out of most of the race's nationally televised debates, with debate organizers citing Johnson's poor poll showing — he wasn't even listed on the Des Moines Register's latest poll results.

"There are a number of candidates who haven't been invited to many of these debates," Peterson said. "I think the people who are broadcasting these debates have an agenda, and their agenda is to get as many viewers as they can."

Johnson addressed his not being included in many debates in an interview with Fox News Business over the summer.

"I never envisioned being excluded from the table of debate, and here it is, that's what's happened," Johnson said. "I can't help but halfway think it's because of what I'm saying and what I'm saying really is different from what's being said out there."


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