Gary Johnson Will Run as a Libertarian. Can He Win New Mexico?

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Its former two-term governor could make a powerful play for the state's five electoral votes.

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After being refused entry into all but two of the Republican Party's primary debates and failing to gain traction with voters in New Hampshire, Gary Johnson is dropping out of the GOP primary and seeking the nomination of a less popular party where his views and dearth of culture war mentality are a better fit. And assuming he emerges as the Libertarian Party's standard bearer in 2012? There is at least one state where he'd be competitive in a three-way race: the swing-state of New Mexico, where Obama beat McCain in 2008, Bush beat Kerry in 2004, and Gore beat Bush in 2000.

Johnson was governor of the state between 1995 and 2003, winning reelection handily and leaving office popular with voters. He'd enjoy strong name recognition and would likely start out the race viewed more favorably there than President Obama or the Republican Party's nominee. Founded in 1971, the Libertarian Party has never fielded a presidential candidate who won a state. Johnson could give that party its best shot at doing so.

Image credit: Reuters

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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