Will Gary Johnson's Pot Policy Hurt Romney?
The Libertarian candidate's Republican former colleagues worry that his pro-legalization stance will cost them votes.
Throughout all the election hoopla so far, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson—whose poll numbers are relatively tiny—has largely been forgotten. But mainstream politicians, particularly Republicans, are reportedly starting to get a little nervous about him as election day looms. The former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico advocates for something that's supported by the majority of Americans, but not by the two leading candidates: the legalization of marijuana. The GOP worries that Johnson will whittle off more of their votes in this tight race, much as Ralph Nader cut into Al Gore’s support in the 2000 election, helping to hand the election to George W. Bush. “As we all learned in Florida, when something’s close enough, even small numbers can make a difference,” says Charlie Cook, the publisher of the Cook Political Report, which monitors electoral trends. So Republicans in a few states are now attempting to hinder Johnson any way they can; party officials in Michigan blocked him from the ballot for filing his paperwork three minutes after deadline. In Iowa, one of Romney’s aides provided witnesses to testify in an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit to block Johnson. And in Pennsylvania, Republicans hired a private detective to investigate Johnson's Philadelphia ballot drive.
Johnson says he has no problem being a potential spoiler in the election, as he sees it as “a debate between Coke and Pepsi.” He's happy to keep talking about the issues most important to him, as a fiscal conservative and social liberal. "Nowhere in the constitution does it say what we can or cannot put in our own bodies by our own choice," he told The Fix last November. "I suggest that if we legalize marijuana, this country will take giant steps to what I would call rational drug policy, which starts with looking at drugs first as a health issue, rather than a criminal justice issue."