Gary Johnson Says Reaching Election Day in 2012 "was kind of like being let out of prison”

Gage SkidmoreGage SkidmoreGary Johnson, former two-term New Mexico governor and the 2012 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, can think of two reasons why he failed to get more votes last November: He personally sucks at fundraising, and his campaign could've done a better job managing his time. In a conversation with Alex Kantrowitz of Forbes, Johnson talks about both:

Of his time on the road, Johnson said that 90 percent was not well spent. Giving an example, he pointed to one campaign stop in Detroit, Michigan where he awoke at 5 a.m. to attend a sparsely attended campaign event three hours away. “We get there and there are six people there,” Johnson said. “There could have been some up front work done to determine there wasn’t going to be 150 people, there was going to be six people. And to spend two, three hours there and then drive back three hours? You can’t get elected president doing that.”

While the time management issues may easy to correct, Johnson’s fundraising problems may be more difficult. “I’m a horrible fundraiser,” he said. “I’m terrible at asking people for money. I don’t ask people for money. I don’t do it. I can’t. So, let’s just not spend any time on that at all. Have others do that. Tell them right up front, 'The reason Gary is not on the phone is because he’s horrible at this. He’s incapable of raising money.'"

One of the worst things you can say about Johnson is that he's a little too honest sometimes. Another is that he always seemed to want to be doing something other than campaigning. On Jan. 29, 2012, for instance, Johnson, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney were all working crowds in Florida. On Jan. 28, Gingrich and Romney were working crowds in Florida, and Johnson was hiking in Taos, New Mexico. Can't say as I blame him, but the act of running for president does require a delusional belief in one's own significance that Johnson doesn't seem to hold. 

He also admits to Kantrowitz that he can't bring himself to take an interest in the 1.5+ million followers he accrued on social media:

In a phone interview a week before election day, Johnson said he would engage, with increased intensity, the social media following he built up over the course of his campaign. His following is not insignificant, counting over 1.5 million combined on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

“I recognize that to not do it would be stupid on my part,” Johnson said at the time. “This is just a real gigantic missed opportunity if I don’t become engaged with it myself.”

“So, Have you?” I asked.
“No, not really,” he replied.
“Why not?”
“No excuse. None.”

Will Johnson run again in 2016? He can't say, as he's head of Our America Initiative, a 501(c)(4)). But he does tell Kantrowitz that reaching election day last year "was kind of like being let out of prison.”

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  • AuH20||

    So, he's basically a sane businessman who hates the BS of campaigning?

    See, these are the kind of people who SHOULD be politicians, because they fucking hate the job and are just doing it out of a sense of duty.

  • db||

    I came here to say this.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Except he didn't do the job at all, sense of duty or otherwise. Going on a hiking trip while you're running for president? What a joke. GJ is just an attention whore -- he's Barack Obama with better principles and worse assistants. He thought RP wouldn't run again in 2012 and wanted to reap what RP sowed in 2008, simple as that.

    Ron Paul is "too honest" and "doesn't enjoy campaigning" too, but he had a gazillion times the impact of GJ.

  • AuH20||

    Aw, Tulpy-poo, you still buthurt that Romney lost?

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    I think there may be a problem with my browser: I see no mention of Romney in my comment.

  • Fool||

    He should have learned from Obama, campaigning all the time.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I was just coming to post what a contrast he is from the current Speecher-in-Chif who has been campaigning for five solid years.

  • sarcasmic||

    You can thank campaign finance reform for that. Placing a limit on the amount someone can donate to a campaign just means you have to find more people to donate. Once upon a time someone could run for office with a rich backer or two. No more. Now you've gotta constantly beg for money.

  • Dweebston||

    But it's more democratic that way.

  • TallDave||

    Whenever people say something like that, I like to point out the Bill of Rights is very explicitly anti-democratic.

  • sarcasmic||

    Yeah. The Founders were not fond of democracy, or "mob rule" as they called it.

  • Dweebston||

    Well, I certainly didn't mean it as a compliment.

  • robc||

    No one should be elected President who wants the job.

    Im glad I voted for Johnson, I think he qualifies for it.

  • sarcasmic||

    Aye. My wife wrote in Rand.

  • TallDave||

    Ayn, Paul, or Corp?

  • ||

    Quaid.

  • Mr. Soul||

    McNally?

  • Mickey Rat||

    Al 'Thor?

  • Anonymous Coward||

    No one wants to be a politician should have the job.

    Seriously. With all of the damage done by Congressional lifers and political dynasties, there should be ample evidence as that people who actively seek office should be barred from office.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    You don't see the problems with having someone placed in a job (from which they can't be fired for a fixed term) that they don't want to do? While I don't want an egotistical cipher like BO in the presidency, I certainly don't want to have a Ron Swanson type either.

  • AuH20||

    Wait, are you daring to suggest that President Ron Swanson wouldn't be the best fucking President this country ever could, would, or may ever have?

    Are you fucking high Tulpa? Or did you just sniff so much computer duster that you got that stupid?

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    You seem to think that an inattentive, inactive president would make the executive branch come to a screeching halt. Very very wrong. The bureaucracy would like nothing better than Ron Swanson at the helm.

  • Brandybuck||

    Rose Wilder Lane's thesis is that the British Empire rose because England had so many inattentive and inactive monarchs. We (the Yanks) rebelled because George III was too attentive and active. The empire gave its dying gasp in the 1950s when Englands rulers were most efficient.

  • sarcasmic||

    You don't see the problems of giving power to people who are willing to do the dishonest and immoral things that politicians must do in order to win the competition for the job?

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    I do see a problem; but the alternative has a problem too.

    The way to fix this would be for people who don't want to use power in selfish and unrestrained ways to endure the grinding, soul-destroying process of rising through positions of power even though they don't enjoy it. Which makes Gary Johnson and his hiking trip the LAST person you'd want to hold up as an example.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    I think everyone wants the government to be run by someone like themselves, which is why we have the stupid voting patterns we do. Anti-intellectual people loved GWB with his plain-folks talk, regardless of what he actually did, and likewise for pseudointellectual people and BO. Few people are actually strategic.

  • sarcasmic||

    That's Readers Digest-level wisdom.

    If by that you mean common sense (which is depressingly uncommon), then yes it is.

  • Mickey Rat||

    We have an incompetent now, and "disinterested" does not imply incompetency.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Yeah, "common sense" is hoping for a disinterested incompetent to win the job of the most powerful individual on Earth.

    I don't think the bon mot you quote is supposed to mean leaders should be incompetent or disinterested; it just means that they shouldn't want or enjoy power.

    The ideal of this in the US is of course George Washington, who supposedly didn't want to be president, couldn't wait to get out of office and back to Mt Vernon after two terms, but did it anyway because the new Constitutional govt needed a widely-respected leader in its infancy.

    Though Washington seriously screwed the pooch in some ways... but that's another matter.

  • sarcasmic||

    Anti-intellectual. Now there's a straw man if I've ever seen one.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    It's not a straw man if someone really holds that position.

    I think we've been over the definitions of logical fallacies before, like 1000 times or something? And you still keep picking them at random.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    OK, how do you set up a workable system to make your "should be" an "is"?

    This is where Reasonoid libertarianism always seems to fall apart.

  • sarcasmic||

    I'd start by implementing the legislature after one described in one of Heinlein's books.

    One house passes laws, but they need a supermajority to do it. 65% at least.

    The other house repeals laws, but they only need a minority of, say, 35%.

    The logic being that if legislation can't command at least 65% approval, then it likely sucks. And if at least 35% actively disapprove, then again it likely sucks.

    Then there would be the added bonus of having people run for office not on what they will do, but on what they will undo.

    That's a start anyway.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    It's creative (well, Heinlein was creative). There are some potential problems with logrolling and quid pro quos in practice though, which no doubt RH didn't want to spend time ferreting out.

    It certainly doesn't deal with our current situation.

  • sarcasmic||

    It certainly doesn't deal with our current situation.

    Really? You don't think that 35% support could be gathered to lay waste to great swaths of the federal government? I do.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    The problem is how you replace Congress with the Heinlein model legislature.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Fantasy does not equal sci-fi.

  • ||

    He could have drawn thousands to his events and raised tens of millions of dollars, but as long as the establishment kept him out of the polls, MSM coverage, and (most importantly) debates, it wouldn't have mattered.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    This enhances my opinion of Johnson.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    It does for me too. Finally, someone who is not a raving egomaniac.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Oh please. Compare him to Ron Paul, who also doesn't like asking for money and is honest, but did the work anyway (at 72 and 76 years of age, mind you) and made an impact.

    I'm sure Romney and Gingrich and Santorum don't enjoy begging for money either. Obviously they're not as good on the principles criterion but crowning laziness as a desirable trait is a mistake.

  • Dweebston||

    “I’m terrible at asking people for money. I don’t ask people for money. I don’t do it. I can’t. So, let’s just not spend any time on that at all.

    Somewhere at HuffPo, if they report on it at all, commentors are without a doubt sniggering about this. "Look at the guy who doesn't want to spend other people's money. What a chump."

  • ThorEastwood||

    Definitely a libertarian personality. He needs experienced handlers to keep him on task, the way Obama needs a TelePrompTer to talk about substantive issues.

  • TallDave||

    In an ideal world, this would all make him the ideal candidate in the eyes of voters.

  • Paul.||

    You can’t get elected president doing that.”

    No, Gary, you can't get elected president talking about liberty and freedom. You can only get elected president when you offer free stuff.

    So next time, throw in a free continental breakfast.

  • db||

    "I'm not a politician, but I am offering free stays in a Holiday Inn for everyone who votes in this election."

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Ron Paul made a huge impact talking about liberty and freedom. Johnson's failure is a Johnson problem, not a liberty and freedom problem.

  • Brandon||

    Why doesn't he run for the Senate in New Mexico? Seems like almost all of these problems would go away.

  • Dweebston||

    Despite living here, I have no idea why he wouldn't. Our seats are not so hotly contended that the news often percolates among the masses, unlike our somewhat controversial Republican governor, so it's perhaps an issue of finding a district to challenge.

    I have another theory, though. I don't think Johnson likes holding office very much. I think he prefers campaigning. Not the asking money part, but chatting with his supporters. I don't want to make him out to be a narcissist. I just think he styles himself more of an educator or debator and less of a legislator.

  • db||

    Sounds like a parallel with Barack Obama. The interesting thing is that successful business men are, in large part, "community organizers" in a sense. They gather together groups of willing employees to provide for the needs of customers. The difference between Gary Johnson's form of community organization and Barack Obama's is that Obama's often involves coercion of unwilling participants under threat of law and regulation. (While a crony capitalist might use similar threats based on his political pull, I do not include such thugs in the category of "successful businessmen." They are at best gamers of an unfair system and at worst failures who resort to thuggery to gain some semblance of success as measured by clients and income, coerced or not.)

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    I don't recall BO having to coerce scads of people to go to his rallies, donate money, and vote for him in 2008.

    GJ is just lazy when it comes to campaigning. Having the right principles isn't worth much in that business, especially when you compare him to Ron Paul.

  • db||

    Yes, principle is worth very little in the business of politics.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Right... so why are we blowing smoke up GJ's ass for having good principles?

    RP had good principles too and he did the work to have an impact, unlike Johnson.

  • Islander505||

    LOL.....Gary does NOT like campaigning.

    He does enjoy meeting and talking with people, but he's much more comfortable doing it from the comfort of, say his office (he will have a monthly "whistleblower" time slot in the WH when elected), or in a neighborhood diner or other intimate venue rather than a big auditorium.

    Throughout the 2012 campaign he spent much more time working the crowds after his speech, (indeed, oftentimes he had to be dragged out of the event) than he spent delivering his speech, or even giving face time to media.

    He is very approachable and will give full attention to whomever is talking to him. Even the critics.

  • Islander505||

    Gary has long declared and made it very clear that he does not consider himself to be "a parliamentarian".
    He is uncomfortable in that position and does not believe he would be effective.

    He considers himself executive material, and nothing less.

    As such, he has no interest in the Senate or Congress.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Then why is he running for president? TWICE. After he failed miserably in the primaries, he blamed the GOP for not embracing him and decided to run again for the LP!

    Sorry, from my POV it looks like he just enjoys adulation and he knows libertarians are desperate.

  • Dweebston||

    Despite living here, I have no idea why he wouldn't. Our seats are not so hotly contended that the news often percolates among the masses, unlike our somewhat controversial Republican governor, so it's perhaps an issue of finding a district to challenge.

    I have another theory, though. I don't think Johnson likes holding office very much. I think he prefers campaigning. Not the asking money part, but chatting with his supporters. I don't want to make him out to be a narcissist. I just think he styles himself more of an educator or debator and less of a legislator.

  • Dweebston||

    Eugh, squirrels.

  • Lyle||

    I like Gary Johnson, but I've said it here before... he was not a serious Presidential candidate. There really is no such thing as a serious Libertarian Presidential candidate unless you want to look at Rand Paul or maybe even Ted Cruz, or some other wacko bird Republican.

  • Legate Damar||

    the act of running for president does require a delusional belief in one's own significance that Johnson doesn't seem to hold

    1. Great sentence, Mike.
    2. This is why GJ got a full 1% of the vote and was the best-performing LP candidate in decades.
    3. This is also why he has absolutely no chance of hitting 2% in 2016.
    4. This pretty well summarizes why I never got involved in local politics. I think about how little impact I would have on anything, (especially as the lone representative of systemic, rather than partisan, thinking) and I realize that my time on the earth is finite and I do not want to spend it arguing with the members of my town council.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    That sentence is horrible. I want to see pipsqueak Riggs tell Ron Paul that he's delusional for running for president (and actually doing the work necessary to make an impact).

  • ||

    Ron Paul has been running for President for 50 years or so, and rode the anti-Bush momentum of 2008 into marginal fame. He's still never gotten as many votes, or as large a percentage of the vote, in a Presidential election that Johnson got in his first real run, so shut the fuck up.

    You don't like Johnson because you're a total red hack. Everyone here is aware of it, too, so save your dumbshit partisan spin.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    He got more votes in 2012 than in 2008, silly.

    I'm back to being a red hack, cool. Back during the talk of the Toomey-Manchin compromise I was suddenly considered a liberal troll; nice to be back in familiar perceptual territory.

    Of course, H+R splits everyone into four categories:

    1. Die-hard true-blooded libertarians who agree with Reason and Cato on everything
    2. Team Red partisan hacks
    3. Team Blue partisan hacks
    4. Contrarians/trolls

  • The Late P Brooks||

    crowning laziness as a desirable trait is a mistake.

    Ooh, zinger.

    But wait- what if it's not "laziness" but self-respect?

  • creech||

    “We get there and there are six people there,” Johnson said. “There could have been some up front work done to determine there wasn’t going to be 150 people, there was going to be six people. And to spend two, three hours there and then drive back three hours? You can’t get elected president doing that.”

    This shows how disorganized the LP is. They need real state chapters with real local groups that can turn out more than six people. They need to nominate their prez candidate far enough in advance that a rational, realistic schedule of appearances can be plotted out with media interviews set up, etc. etc. By the time we heard GJ was going to land in Penna. for a quick appearance, there was no time to put together a fund-raising dinner, line up major radio talk show interviews, or any of a dozen things that would have helped the campaign.

  • ChrisO||

    It's not just a LP thing. Even when he was in the Republican primaries, Johnson was entirely invisible until his little quip during the debates.

    I voted for the guy quite enthusiastically, but he's clearly not a master of retail politics. Unfortunately, at the presidential level, it seems like only sociopaths *are* good at that stuff.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Pay no attention to the Ron Paul behind the curtain...

  • toasted||

    The only people that like government and politics are the type of people you don't want in government or politics. Time to rethink the need for government.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    You're going to have it whether you like it or not. Anarchies don't last long in non-sparsely populated areas; somebody or some group is always stronger than everyone else and they wind up a de facto govt.

  • ||

    I really hope that Gary Johnson DOES run again in 2016, so that I can redeem myself and vote for him, which I very foolishly did not do in 2012. I reluctantly voted for Obama again in 2012 for two reasons: (1) I wanted to vote for Johnson, but I thought that my vote would be wasted; and (2) I thought that Obama was better than Romney and that maybe Obama would change. How stupid I was!!! I have voted for Democrats for years, hoping that they would change, and they do not -- I am only encouraging them! From now on, I will vote Libertarian when I can. The more votes the Libertarian Party gets, the more frightened the Democrats and Republicans will become. Only then will the Democrats and Republicans change their positions to try to accommodate us!

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