Trump alternative Gary Johnson to unhappy Republicans: Call my office

May 9, 2016

By Ginger Gibson and Emily Stephenson

WASHINGTON — He is running as a businessman outsider for president, who would cut spending, tackle the nation’s immigration problem and stick to conservative fiscal policies. And he would legalize marijuana.

Gary Johnson, the former Republican governor from New Mexico, is making his second bid for president, running with the Libertarian Party, but this time, the unhappiness with the two mainstream parties is bringing a lot more attention his way.

And he thinks he knows business a lot better than likely Republican nominee Donald Trump, saying the New York real estate mogul demonstrated a lack of understanding about how government debt works when he said this weekend he would buy back federal bonds at a discount.

“Obviously he’s thinking of his bondholders and the fact that every one of his bondholders have taken a haircut… own a Trump bond, at some point, you’re going to take a haircut,” Johnson said. “Hillary’s not going to call him on that one because I don’t think she understands it either.”

Johnson trekked around rainy Washington, D.C., on Monday, sporting running shoes, jeans and a jacket, making his pitch for president. His schedule has exploded since Ted Cruz dropped out of the Republican race and Donald Trump became the presumptive nominee, he says, telling staff he couldn’t fit another meeting in the day and not to consent to any more.

A self-described athlete, Johnson says he’s climbed the highest mountain on every continent. And he volunteers, without being asked, that he uses marijuana from time to time.

Johnson, who is highly likely to lock up the Libertarian nomination at their convention later this month, could be the only third-party candidate to appear on the ballot in all 50 states, making him the most realistic alternative to Trump and likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

But so far, he says, no high-dollar Republican donors are abandoning Trump and offering to bankroll his campaign. And while he’s gotten calls from some GOP strategists who hope he’ll hire them – he says he can’t afford to – Johnson said he wasn’t getting phone calls from high-level Republican officials who have disavowed Trump.

But Johnson said anguished Republicans who talk about supporting a third party candidate, or say they will not vote for Trump or Clinton in November, as former candidate Jeb Bush did on Friday, will eventually realize he’s their best option.

“Using Jeb Bush as an example or using Ben Sasse as an example, look, these guys are former elected, elected officials that are saying they’re going to vote for third party. Well, they’re knowledgeable, who are they talking about?” Johnson said. “Ultimately, they’re talking about me.”

Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska, denounced Trump in a series of tweets after the New Yorker became the presumptive nominee. He had previously said he would look for a third-party candidate if he could not support the Republican choice for president.

Bush, the former Florida governor, said on Facebook he would support conservatives in other races. He did not mention a third-party presidential candidate.

Johnson said he wasn’t calling to seek their endorsements, but he thinks they’ll come around on their own.

“I don’t think that would help,” Johnson said, adding that he thinks a request for an endorsement would seem arrogant. “That’s not me. That’s not who I am. I’ve never done that kind of stuff.”

If Johnson is to have a chance to catch fire in the campaign, he will need to be on the debate stage when the general election showdowns are held, beginning in September. To do so, Johnson needs to break 15 percent in national polls.

But the rub, for Johnson, is that he isn’t being included in national polls — a Catch-22 he says prevents him from getting media coverage, which he says in turn keeps him out of the polls.

He’s working to lobby the pollsters.

“Yeah we are. I mean, come on, what’s up? Amazingly the polls will say, you know, you’re not getting that much media. And the media will say, well, you’re not polling.”

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