Is Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson the "Next Ron Paul?"

| by Reason Foundation

By Matt Welch

That's the headline claim in this Politico profile of the former New Mexico governor, who was the first U.S. politician of prominence to come out for legalizing drugs. Excerpt:

Johnson is starting to sound like a mad-as-hell populist with an eye cast on 2012 and the building fury aimed at Washington.

"I'm finding myself really angry over spending and the deficit," he said in an interview with POLITICO this week. "I'm finding myself really angry over what's happening in the Middle East, the decision to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely. I'm angry about cap-and- trade. And I've been on record for a long time on the failed war on drugs..."

Libertarian-leaning Republican, Johnson this month launched "Our America," a group that aims to draw attention to the principles of limited government at home and non-interventionism abroad.

But as the subtitle on its website indicates, "The Gary Johnson Initiative" is also designed to elevate the profile of the ascetic and unconventional former governor who is known nationally—if at all—for his support of legalizing drugs.

Johnson is doing little to knock down the idea that he may be looking toward a 2012 presidential run.

"Is there room for something a little different?" he replied to a question about whether there was an opportunity for a new GOP voice emphasizing a different approach. "I'd like to think I'm putting that to the test."

Johnson is extremely cautious in responding to direct questions about his own prospective White House ambitions, citing the legal restrictions on his 501(c)4 group, but he didn't hesitate when asked if he'd soon be seen in such first-in-the-nation states as Iowa and New Hampshire.

"Yeah, you will," he said...

Johnson actually endorsed Paul for president last year and he shares some of the Texas congressman's libertarian alarmist views—but without the penchant for gold standard wonkiness...

Johnson has no plan to leave the GOP. He resisted a draft effort from the Libertarian Party leading up to the 2000 presidential race and now, while noting his disillusionment with the party’s fiscal record during the Bush years, says: "I am still a Republican."

Whole thing here; Our America website here.

From Reason's Gary Johnson file: Jesse Walker flagged the ex-gov's possible 2012 aspirations in April. Michael Lynch interviewed "America's Most Dangerous Politician" in the January 2001 issue, and Jacob Sullum assessed his drug position in 1999. David Weigel flagged Johnson's Paul endorsement in January 2008, and quoted him pooh-poohing Bill Richardson's alleged libertarian bonafides the year before that. More citations at this link.