by Conor Friedersdorf
Imagine a successful two-term Republican governor with a credible small government record, a demonstrated commitment to
civil liberties, skepticism about foreign wars, a longstanding determination to
right America's fiscal ship, evidence of competent management skills in
the public and private sectors, and an utter lack of ugly populist
rhetoric during the whole of his substantial time in public life. You'd think he'd be a God send for tea partiers and civil
libertarians, a possibility to win the GOP nomination in 2012, and an
appealing alternative for those of us who think that given a sane
alternative Barack Obama doesn't deserve another term.
That attractive, reality-based Republican exists! His name is Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico. Says Niall Stanage in a Salon.com profile:
Aside from his low name-recognition, he has no discernible power base. After eight years on the job in Santa Fe, he was term-limited out of the governorship at the end of 2002 and stepped back from public life thereafter. Fundraising will be arduous. And his ambitions are the object of outright scorn from the Washington establishment.
"His chances are zero," political analyst Stu Rothenberg says via e-mail. "I'd say that they are less than zero, if there was such a thing. I'd expect his impact to be nonexistent."
Tell a savvy politico that you'd love to see former Governor Johnson win the Republican nomination and they'll tell you the same thing, usually in a condescending tone: he doesn't have a chance. It's a dynamic I might accept if the GOP field were filled with excellent options. As things are, however, there's talk of Mitt Romney reappearing in a guise that has yet to be determined, a new xenophobic version of Newt Gingrich advancing the notion that Saudi Arabia and its treatment of religious freedom should inform attitudes toward religious freedom in America, and Sarah Palin, whose crowning achievement as governor of Alaska was... well, never mind that, she's a cultural phenom and really connects with the base!!