Could Gary Johnson become the next Ralph Nader?

Johnson — the Libertarian presidential candidate who will appear on the ballot in 48 states come Nov. 6 — possesses the potential to do to Mitt Romney next month what Nader did to Al Gore in 2000: siphon off just enough votes as a third-party candidate to swing an entire presidential election. To that end, a front-page article in Monday’s New York Times — “Spoiler Alert! G.O.P. Fighting Libertarian’s Spot on the Ballot” — examines multiple ways in which Johnson could directly affect the outcome of the presidential election.

“Now campaigning as the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee, Mr. Johnson is still only a blip in the polls,” Jim Rutenberg wrote for the Times. “But he is on the ballot in every state except Michigan and Oklahoma, enjoys the support of a few small ‘super PACs’ and is trying to tap into the same grass-roots enthusiasm that helped build Representative Ron Paul a big following. And with polls showing the race between President Obama and Mitt Romney to be tight, Mr. Johnson’s once-fellow Republicans are no longer laughing. … Both sides agree that Mr. Johnson, whose pro-marijuana legalization and antiwar stances may appeal to the youth vote and whose antigovernment, anti-spending proposals may appeal to conservative fiscal hawks — and to supporters of Mr. Paul — has the potential to draw from both Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama.”

Johnson is the former two-term governor of New Mexico who spent most of 2011 running for president as a Republican. But to hear Johnson speak, he isn't overly fond of the GOP's nominee.

“I mean Romney, in the second [GOP primary] debate, said that it’s a ‘no brainer’ to build a fence across the border,” Johnson said in a Q&A that published Saturday. “You’re talking about somebody right now without one molecule of brain based on his statement. Building a fence across the border would be wacky nuts! And here it is — that’s what he wants to do.”

Within the past week, U.S. News & World Report covered Johnson campaigning on college campuses, and the Washington Post examined Johnson’s campaign presence in the nation’s capitol.

In terms of long-form reporting, Lisa DePaulo’s GQ profile of Johnson from November 2011 still provides unmatched insight into his back-story: DePaulo described Johnson as “a guy who's confident that he knows how to manage the purse strings and balance a budget because he did it — eight years in a row — in New Mexico. His fiscal conservatism is unmatched by anyone in the race. … Even the backstory had a self-made charm: Born fifty-eight years ago in Minot, North Dakota, the son of a tire salesman turned teacher and a mom who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Johnson started a one-man handyman operation when he was 21, grew it into a construction company with a thousand employees, and sold it in 1999 for about $5 million.”

Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at or 801-236-6051.