Johnson likely to get Libertarian ticket

Former Gov. Gary Johnson is on the verge of winning the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president, but he’s reluctant to claim victory yet.

“I wouldn’t take anything for granted yet,” he said of the Libertarian nominating process, which takes place Saturday at the party’s national convention in Las Vegas, Nev. But a moment later, he added, “It does look good.”

Johnson has even chosen his preferred running mate — Jim Gray, a retired California superior court judge, who, like Johnson, is a longtime opponent of marijuana laws. Gray is the only announced Libertarian candidate for vice president.

But even if Johnson wins the Libertarian nod this weekend, he acknowledged his path won’t be easy. In an interview Wednesday, Johnson said any hope of being competitive with Democratic President Barack Obama and likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney in November depends on him being included in the presidential debates in October.

But because of the steep standards set by the organization that organizes the debates, that’s not easy for any third-party candidate. The last to be included in the debates was Ross Perot in 1992.

Johnson said if he can get on the stage with Obama and Romney, he would have a shot at winning. But as Johnson himself said, “That’s a big ‘if.’ ”

The two-term governor, who had been a lifelong Republican, left the GOP early this year after months of being ignored and excluded during his frustrating campaign to win the Republican nomination.

He’d assumed that his reputation as a tight-fisted, small-government, small-taxes advocate who was not afraid to veto hundreds of bills would appeal to GOP primary voters.

However, his libertarian positions on gay marriage, abortion and drug-law reform didn’t catch on with socially conservative Republicans. Plus, Ron Paul, himself a former Libertarian Party presidential nominee, announced his candidacy shortly after Johnson entered the Republican race. The better-known Paul was invited to all the GOP debates, while Johnson was only allowed to participate in two.

But — assuming he’s the Libertarian nominee — being excluded from debates could become Johnson’s biggest problem again.

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(1) Johnson likely to get Libertarian ticket
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