Gary Johnson — ever heard of him?
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson arrived on campus yesterday to remind students that he is still running for president of the United States.
Third party candidates like Johnson are overshadowed by candidates from the two major political parties. Comments like Mitt Romney’s 47 percent seem especially loud and drown out perhaps more reasonable talking points. Johnson spoke specifically on how he differed from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama and a crowd of students and visitors listened enthusiastically, despite a small minority of hecklers. On both social and fiscal issues, he sounds like some strange combination of Romney and Obama. He believes in marriage equality, but wants to “slash Medicare spending.”
Johnson wore a casual pastel blue shirt with a peace sign. His cool and casual demeanor reminds you of the cool dad who brings you out for shooting practice and is OK with you taking a hit from your best friend’s joint. Johnson appealed to the young crowd with mentions of marijuana and his plans for ending the war in Afghanistan. He referred to specific Arizonan immigration issues and said he objects the construction of a wall to keep illegal immigrants from entering the country.
Since neither major presidential candidate has visited Arizona, Johnson’s appearance at ASU marks an important symbolic move. While Obama believes he is lost to Arizonans, and while Romney believes he has the Grand Canyon State in the bag, perhaps Johnson views Arizona as a source of still-viable Libertarian votes. Johnston contends, and perhaps rightfully so, that a vote for him would not be a “waste” vote. Voting for Johnson sends the symbolic message that Arizona is much more politically nuanced than other states believe.
While Arizona enjoys its fair share of social conservatives, a population of socially-liberal, but fiscally-conservative voters is beginning to gain more traction, especially among college students. Students hold progressive beliefs in the right of choice on some social issues like marijuana and gay marriage, but maintain that government shouldn’t heavily regulate issues like health care and gun laws.
While Obama might not gain any more votes from the red state, Romney stands to lose some Arizona voters to candidates like Johnson who are slowly, but surely, leaning more Libertarian than conservative. Obama’s voter base, especially among young women and minority groups, is relatively set. Romney, on the other hand, is not doing well at splitting his attention between his conservative and Libertarian base.
When it comes down to it, Johnson’s appearance in Arizona indicates that he sees Arizona as a valuable and significant place for votes.
His appearance at a college university indicates that he sees college students as a highly valuable source of votes.
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