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Obama’s Johnson Problem

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William McGurn had an interesting editorial today regarding Rick Santorum’s social conservatism and its portrayal in the media. I agree with McGurn that Santorum comes across as sincere on social issues, and when he says marriage is between a man and a woman, he believes it. That is why the liberal media so frightened of him. (His genuineness on social issues stands in contrast to his supposed conversion to fiscal and economic conservatism; no one is taking the Bush-era Keynesian big spender seriously on these issues.)

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Obama, McGurn notes, also says that marriage is between a man and a woman, yet it does not elicit the same media uproar like it does when Santorum says it. McGurn believes the reason is that no one in the media believes him—it’s just a throwaway line to keep from creating ripples in the heartland.

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Obama’s problem this time around is Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. He has made it clear that if governments are going to license or regulate marriage, the Constitution requires same sex marriages to be treated on equal footing with heterosexual marriages. Obama may agree, but he won’t say it aloud, and more importantly, won’t do anything about it.

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So Obama’s disingenuousness has put him between a rock and a hard place. Johnson is actively courting a demographic that Democrats have long taken for granted. Tired of sitting on the back burner, many LGBT voters are enthusiastic about the first serious presidential candidate to embrace their vote-turning issue as his own. So either Obama is going to have to change his campaign trail stance on same sex marriage and risk angering the “bitter clingers,” or he will lose a large chunk of a voting bloc that was safely his four years ago.

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The same goes for the marijuana legalization crowd. Obama has sent mixed messages about marijuana, such as saying that treatment is a better option than incarceration, but still says it should remain illegal (?). Worse, leaders of the marijuana legalization crowd are pegging him as “worse than Bush” and “worst president in history” regarding medical marijuana. Johnson, on the other hand, has made it perfectly clear that he wants marijuana legalized and regulated like alcohol. For the folks at NORML and other groups for whom marijuana legalization is a vote-turning issue, Johnson is a clear choice from a Democrat who has let them down like so many before him. Again, another voting bloc taken for granted by the Democrats is gravitating toward the Libertarian candidate.

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And don’t forget the peace vote. Obama promised to get us out of Afghanistan, but what did he do? He ordered a surge! Plus, he’s keeping “all options” on the table vis-á-vis Iran, including ground troops and a Bush-era plan to use air strikes to destroy not only the Iran’s nuclear capacity, but their entire military as well. The president has blown his credibility with the peace vote, and they know who the true foreign policy conservative (non-interventionist) is—Gary Johnson.

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But the largest Obama demographic Johnson is cutting into is the youth vote. Younger voters were overwhelmingly in the Obama camp in 2008, but now both Ron Paul and Gary Johnson are making major headway with this group. Many younger voters have told me they will switch their allegiance to Gary Johnson when and if Ron Paul concedes. Others are waiting for Ron Paul’s endorsement, which hopefully will be for Gary Johnson. (It’s too late for Dr. Paul to make an independent run, although he could conceivably run on the Americans Elect ticket.)

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So Gary Johnson is poised to pick off a large chunk of voters who would likely have voted for Obama in November (assuming he gets the LP nomination, of course, which seems extremely likely). Part of this is Obama’s fault; he has mightily disappointed some issue-specific voting blocs. In the case of the LGBT vote, he won’t even stand up for their hot-button issue, even though many think he secretly supports their cause.

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Those of us in the Gary Johnson camp know that this election isn’t about “anybody but Obama.” It’s about “anybody but Obama, Romney, Santorum, or Gingrich.” It’s about getting the country off the wrong track and getting it on the right track. By necessity it means emphasizing libertarian policies that appeal to the base of both halves of the “Big Two.” In some cases it means embracing the vote-turning issue of people who have never had a presidential candidate stand up for them before.

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And have no doubt, Obama’s folks are watching the growing Johnson campaign closely.

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This article is also posted at The Country Thinker.

About Ted Lacksonen

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Ted Lacksonen has written 97 posts in this blog.

I am a proud mem­ber of the Coun­try Class — the roughly 75% of Amer­i­cans who have been effec­tively dis­en­fran­chised by the minor­ity Rul­ing Class. As a law stu­dent and lawyer, I trav­eled (uncom­fort­ably) in Rul­ing Class cir­cles. As an HVAC installer, sheet metal fab­ri­ca­tor, and ship designer, I trav­eled (com­fort­ably) in Coun­try Class cir­cles. My expe­ri­ences in these two widely diver­gent uni­verses have given me a dual per­spec­tive that is uncom­mon among writ­ers and thinkers.

  • Obama, Romney, Santorum, or Gingrich will NOT fix this country! You are totally right about that!

  • It will be interesting to see how many doctrinaire democrats he can pick off…

  • The difficulty for Gary Johnson is Ron Paul. While Ron Paul remains in the race, he is the one viewed as the ‘serious’ candidate. This is not saying that Gary is not serious about his candidature, but that in the grand scheme of things he is an order of magnitude less significant than Ron Paul.

    While Ron Paul remains in the race.

    If that changes, then the option opens up. If Ron Paul, and the resources and energy currently focusing on that campaign were to swing to Gary Johnson, everything would change.

    Otherwise, Gary has to re-plow the long hard road that Ron Paul has charted over 40 years. Sure, it will be easier this time around, but there are others on that path as well.

    In many ways, the primary work that Gary Johnson’s campaign needs to be doing is fitting themselves into the Ron Paul mold so that the mantle can be passed on. Sure, there are a number of supporters of Ron Paul that see Johnson as their second option, but a lot of distrust and wariness amongst others. It would be all too easy for that momentum to fracture and dissipate rather than transfer.

  • Very interesting analysis CT, and I think you might just be onto something here. I think Obama will be in trouble if Johnson gains any momentum whatsoever. I just don’t know how many young people will even know about him and I would bet he would not be involved in the debates because the media, the Republicans, and the Democrats in the end do not want to see someone step in who just might upset their gravy train.
    I do not think that Paul will run third party, even on the AE ticket, because of the bind it will put his son in. I am honestly thinking about voting for Johnson because I don’t see where any of these candidate will make a real difference if they are elected.

  • Nobody knows who Gary Johnson is but I love your title. Obama has a problem with Johnson and had a problem with Dick… Cheney.