Very libertarian-leaning former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has officially announced he's running for president with the Republican Party in 2012, during a New Hampshire press conference today.

Here's some of his reasons why, via Chicago Tribune:

“Today's mess didn't just happen. We elected it -- one senator, member of Congress and president at a time,” Johnson said in a statement. “Our leaders in Washington, D.C., have ‘led' America to record unemployment, a devalued currency, banking scandals, the mortgage crisis, drug crisis, economic crisis, loss of our nation's industrial might -- and a long list of other reminders our nation is way off course.”

Reason has had its eye on this very refreshing political figure for a long time. Some highlights:

*Michael Lynch's very early 2001 profile of the then-Gov.

*Johnson loves Ron Paul.

*Ron Paul loves Johnson too, and Johnson doesn't see why you can't run a light if you are sure there's no one endangered by doing so.

*Johnson is sensible on immigration.

*Johnson thinks pot legalization is a very vital issue.

*The Atlantic thinks Johnson deserves to hit the big time.

I've seen Johnson do his basic presentation a handful of times over the years, most recently just a couple of weeks back. I'm pleased to say he's getting better at it: more capable of answering questions deftly, projecting a little bit more charisma and passion. (He is a very, very "normal guy" in demeanor, almost sleepily calm, which may well hurt him in the heat of a presidential race.) He likes to stress his experience as a veto-happy governor to show he can ride herd on a Congress that will doubtless fight against a President Johnson; he's climbed Everest and smoked dope, and he wants you to know it. (He also, eccentrically, was quite open in discussing his coeliac disease.) He's been a successful businessman and his New Mexico political career happened with the same out-of-nowhere swiftness his national one will have to.

He seems solidly libertarian along all realistic metrics for a national politician. His basic pamphlet from his Our American Initiative he was passing out at the recent event has a disturbing line that effectively advocated a national I.D. card in order to work in the U.S. as part of his immigration plaform. When I asked him about this, he said he'd re-thought that position since the pamphlet was printed.

He handled eccentrics gently, seeming unwilling to tell people hyped up about things like the Amero or GM foods that maybe they have their facts wrong, and let a questioner imply without sharply rebuking him that the AMA's cartel restrictions on medical care were a purely private, not government, matter. Sharp rebukes seem in general not a part of his rhetorical repertoire, and he might want to work on that. He rejected the notion of running with the Libertarian Party because the "idea is to win" and seemed uninterested in seeking a Senate seat from New Mexico when encouraged to do so.

When asked what differentiated him from Ron Paul, he mentioned immigration and abortion. At this point, a built-in and enthusiastic national fan base also differentiates them, though that might change now that Johnson's officially under the media presidential candidate spotlight. Whether it will shine brightly on him remains to be seen.

He seems to find his libertarian conclusions so natural and sensible that I think he fails at times at hooking into opponents from their own perspective and explaining why they should consider his libertarian policies even if they lack his libertarian philosophy, and that's something he's going to have to get great at as he faces a world of voters and media who decidedly do not share his basic outlook. But that his voice will be out there in the scrum during the main context in which Americans think about political ideas--the presidential race--is a great thing.

There will I'm sure be more on this announcement from Hit and Run as time goes by. In the meantime, Johnson talks to Reason.tv: