WASHINGTON – Libertarian presidential nominee former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson predicted that he would “equally” take votes away from both presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and said he would not lose any sleep over spoiling the general election.
Johnson also predicted that he would garner enough support to qualify for inclusion in the presidential debates.
“In the polls where they’ve actually done an analysis, to this point we’ve taken more votes away from Hillary, but by a margin that really is not even discernible. I think that it will be equally from both sides and this is a two-party dinosaur. We think we’re going to be the comet in this equation,” Johnson said at the National Press Club luncheon with his running mate, former Republican Gov. Bill Weld of Massachusetts.
Johnson, also a former Republican, said the “biggest obstacle” for his campaign right now is appearing in major polls.
“Right now, we’re an afterthought. Right now, it’s Clinton and it’s Trump and that’s the poll that gets reported. And then as an afterthought, occasionally you’ll have Gary Johnson, Bill Weld added as the afterthought,” he said. “If at the very onset they would poll Johnson, Trump, Clinton, I think that that would result in the 15 percent that we need to be in the presidential debates and the added scrutiny that will go along with that — that’s what we really need at this point is just more scrutiny.”
The moderator of the discussion pointed out that 10 percent of the vote is not enough to win the election in a three-way race.
“So do you worry about being perceived as a spoiler to the major party candidates such as Ross Perot in ’92 or Ralph Nader in 2000?” Johnson was asked.
“I will lose no sleep if that is the label given to me, and I will reiterate — this is a party that needs crashing,” he responded.
Johnson described himself and his running mate as classical liberals.
“I think most of you fall in that same category of being classical liberals. I think most of America falls in the category of being classical liberal. Sadly, Republicans don’t fall in this category and part of that has to do right now with the Republican nominee for president. They’re not socially tolerant at all. They’re not welcoming to gays, to lesbians, to women, to ethnic minorities, and I will say as a border state governor, the things that he is saying regarding immigration are absolutely incendiary,” he said.
“The fact that he is going to deport 11 million undocumented workers, that he wants to build a fence across the border, that they are murderers and rapists when in fact they are law-abiding citizens and they are hardworking and they are just looking to improve their lives as we all are looking to improve our lives,” he added.
Johnson said Democrats do not fit in the category of being classically liberal, either.
“Everything about the Democratic Party is free, free everything. Government’s going to provide you with everything it is that you need, and I think we all recognize that nothing is free — somebody pays for that. And so at the end of the day, government grows with Democrats and taxes go up,” he said. “When taxes go up, that’s money out of your and my pockets that we could be spending on our own lives that shouldn’t we have that money to make choices in our lives as opposed to government determining what’s best.”
Johnson told the audience he would not be satisfied with receiving only 15 percent of the vote, which is enough to qualify for the presidential debates.
“We would not be doing this if there weren’t the opportunity to actually win, but the only opportunity that we have of winning is being in the presidential debates. And to be in the presidential debates, we have to be at 15 percent in the polls and we think that that is very doable,” he said. “Consensus number right now, you could argue, is at about 10 percent. That’s up from half of that just six or seven weeks ago, and we think we’ll make our case over the summer. We think we’ll get to the 15 percent. We think we’ll be in the presidential debates and we think anything can happen at that point.”
He continued, “I am speaking to the fact that we have the two most polarizing figures in America today. If Mickey Mouse were the third name in any of these polls, Mickey would be polling at 30 because Mickey is a known commodity, but Mickey is not on the ballot in all 50 states and Bill and I are.”
Weld said the Republican Party might crack in two after the general election.
“The two major parties seem to agree on only one thing: perpetuating their own duopoly. But the duopoly is sick, it’s not producing results. It has lost all creativity. No one’s listening to anyone. A storm is brewing this year, and it seems possible the Republican Party may even crack in two,” he said. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s happened twice before to the Republican Party in times of political ferment. In 1912, former President Theodore Roosevelt founded the Bull Moose party and nearly won the presidency, easily defeating the incumbent President, William Howard Taft, but losing to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.”
Johnson said he and Weld both understand that money does not come from the government.
“We both understand what Washington doesn’t, and that’s that money comes from taxpayers, not from the government. Government doesn’t create jobs. A consistently lower tax burden and regulatory burden will give business confidence to move forward and that is something that we will provide,” he said.
During the Q&A portion of the event, the moderator asked Johnson when he last smoked or ingested marijuana.
“I did this about two months ago, it’s been about two months and when you tell the truth, really, you don’t have anything to fear. I’ve always maintained that you shouldn’t be on the job impaired. Well, as of two months ago – really, this is a 24/7 job running for president of the United States, and as president of the United States, that is also a 24/7 job,” he said.
Johnson clarified that he would not smoke marijuana as president.
“In my lifetime, I think I have more than demonstrated my ability to be self-disciplined. I haven’t had a drink of alcohol in 29 years. I wasn’t an alcoholic, it had everything to do with rock climbing and the immediacy of rock climbing and being the best that you could possibly be. But this is the truth component that I think is really also lacking in politics,” he said.
“Who would know that I ingested marijuana products two months ago? My best friends and if I’d have said, ‘Hey, I don’t use it, or I haven’t used them,’ my best friends would consider me a hypocrite and I think hypocrisy is the one unforgivable in life — doing one thing and saying another.”