The Strange Ways Candidate Gary Johnson Gets Media Attention

It's been hard for the fringe candidate to gain any traction without pulling a few stunts

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It's difficult for a marginalized presidential candidate to get attention without saying or doing something embarrassing. For the most part, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson isn't one of those fringe candidates, but--as The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf has noted here, here and here--he isn't getting media share like the better-known, backed, and funded GOP contenders. So he's clearly been trying to create his own buzz, with mixed results.

Today, Johnson made news for launching a new website catered to gamblers before his trip to Las Vegas on Thursday, of which CNN briefly noted: "Gary Johnson is trying to hold 'em - poker players." The site was only his latest effort to get a little bit of attention, and we've noticed a few similar PR moves of his recently. Here's our quick list.

  • Appealing to Poker Players and Heading to the World Series of Poker Party - Take a look at Gary Johnson's special website set up to help raise funds from those who don't think the federal government should be "involved in restricting lawful commerce that doesn't harm anyone," (i.e. gambling) as he put it on the site. It's a little Ron Paul-esque, but seems to have the intended effect: Matthew Kredell, a writer at Poker News noted "Even today, only a fringe candidate would go out on that ledge to court poker players. But for any candidate at all to see value in the poker vote is progress."

  • Arguing With an Obama Impersonator on Fox Business Network - In retrospect, this surreal moment of television has to be considered a misstep: how can a presidential candidate be taken seriously when he's earnestly arguing with an Obama look-alike now-known for telling racy jokes at June's Republican Leadership Conference? Of course, Johnson didn't know that said-impersonator Reggie Brown would be mired in controversy only a little over a week later. But the candidate should have known he was walking into a circus on Fox Business Network with this faux-debate:

  • Responding to Every Single Question at the Debate He Wasn't Invited To - His notable exclusion (he didn't have enough support in national polls) from the much-hyped CNN presidential debate in June doesn't mean he missed much: it was Michele Bachmann's night anyway. But, dutifully, Johnson produced a 40-minute video splicing moderator John King's questions with his own trademarked answers. Of his answers, an impressed Conor Friedersdorf wrote: "If another lesser known produced a 40 minute clip with answers so compelling that I thought they could go viral, or were worthy of wider attention, I'd totally hit the embed button again."

  • Trumpeting 'Legalize Marijuana' as a Signature Issue - He's done interviews with 420 Times magazine, been the unofficial choice of a High Times magazine staffers straw poll, and boldly endorsed marijuana legalization at CPAC. So by now, he seems to have established himself--aside from Ron Paul--as the Republican candidate who supports the legalization of pot. He even devoted his valuable, brief moment on the Colbert Report to give his full-throated endorsement:

  • Leveraging Counterintuitive Positions: "I didn't create a single job" - A few weeks ago,  the conservative National Review magazine praised the former New Mexico governor's record on job growth in comparison to the other contenders, saying "Gary Johnson has the best record of the official candidates." (We made a chart of the job growth numbers cited in the report.) Instead of just accepting the praise, Johnson responded: "Contrary to the news, I didn't create a single job," before explaining that he didn't want to take credit for growth in his state. In a savvy move, he did, however, transform National Review's praise into a blurb for his campaign ad, below:
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