Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson’s somewhat quixotic campaign for the Republican presidential nomination got a boost when FOX News announced he met the criteria for inclusion in the Thursday, September 22, Orlando debate.
Fox News included Johnson at the first debate of the season, in South Carolina in May, but not in the debate it hosted just before the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa. CNN and the Tea Party Express did not include Johnson in the recent debate they hosted in Tampa either.
Johnson, a Libertarian-oriented candidate, has struggled to find a niche in the shadow of the much better known Libertarian-backed candidacy of Congressman Ron Paul. Consequently, he is often not included in the very polls the networks use to determine who qualifies for a spot on the debate stage, creating a cycle that, by Johnson’s calculation, had seemingly guaranteed his exclusion.
Now FOX has tweaked their rules and Governor Johnson is back in.
Johnson, who is probably best known for his calls to legalize marijuana, said in an interview with POLITICO that if he was invited to participate in the FOX debate he did not plan to make a “spectacle,” but concentrate on selling his campaign themes.
In that same interview with POLITICO Johnson outlined his campaign themes as, “I’m promising to submit a balanced budget in 2013. I am promising to veto spending legislation that exceeds revenue. I am promising to overhaul the tax code, that means throwing out the entire federal tax system and replacing it with the fair tax.”
That Governor Johnson does not plan on making a “spectacle” probably comes as somewhat of a disappointment to the FOX marketing department executives in charge of promoting the Thursday evening debate.
With nine candidates on the stage, it remains to be seen whether or not the fall marathon of Republican debates soon proves to be too much for voters. If FOX only added Gary Johnson to Thursday’s line-up to add a little theater to the debate, Libertarians will no doubt enjoy the irony if he sticks to his word not to make a spectacle and shows-up second tier debate regulars like former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.