Gary Johnson might not be running for president in 2016 yet, but last year's Libertarian Party candidate certainly sounds like he's up for another run.
In an appearance at George Washington University on Monday night, Johnson not only sought to distinguish himself from his old affiliation — the Republican Party — but also took on what he believes are the failures of the Democratic Party.
Johnson received about 1 percent of the popular vote in the 2012 election, and he has not announced any intention to run for president in 2016. On Monday night, he said it’s just too early.
“Who’s got a voice that’s fiscally more conservative than any Republican, and who’s got a voice that’s more liberal than any Democrat? Me,” he said in an interview after the speech.
Primarily, however, Johnson took aim at the GOP's positions on abortion, immigration and drug legalization to an audience of more than 200 gathered in the GWU student union.
“I think Republicans that call themselves libertarians, they all have a social agenda,” he said.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Johnson said, is one of those kinds of libertarian Republicans who often punt on the discussion of social issues by saying it’s best left to the states to decide.
“It’s a way of saying, ‘I don’t want to deal with it,’” he said. “I really believe Republicans lost the last presidential race because of their socially conservative agenda.
“Speaking with a broad brush stroke, I am fiscally conservative; I am socially accepting,” he said. “I don’t give a crap on how you live your life as long as your life doesn’t adversely affect mine.”
He blasted Democrats during his speech, as well, garnering applause when he said, “Libertarianism is more liberal than liberals on social issues.”
Speaking without prepared remarks, Johnson went down the line of hot-button issues in today’s politics and outlined his views on each one, some more clearly than others. Most articulate in advocating for a broad consumption tax to replace the current code, he had less to say on national security, leaning heavily on the concept of due process to support his positions.
The first topic in the question and answer session was the sense, common among libertarians, that local law enforcement overreached its authority in putting Boston on lockdown after the recent marathon bombings. Johnson addressed the question by condemning the military police state and railing against the use of surveillance footage in prosecuting traffic violations.
Monday’s forum was not officially a campaign-related event, having been sponsored by the Our America Initiative, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit of which Johnson is the honorary chairman, according to press relations contact Joe Hunter.
Johnson originally ran in the 2012 election on the Republican ticket, polling at 5.3 percent in a Zogby survey from July of that year. He dropped out of the GOP primary race and the party to accept the Libertarian Party's nomination. Johnson served two terms as governor of New Mexico and gained a reputation for breaking state and national records for vetoing legislation.
Monday’s visit to GWU was the last stop on a speaking tour that has taken him to eight other campuses, including Hillsdale College, Miami University and the University of New Mexico.