August 21, 2012

Taking the liberty vote?

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson appeals to some fiscal conservatives and supporters of limited government, and may draw some voters from Mitt Romney

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Gary Johnson
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Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, announces his decision to leave the Republican Party and run for president as a Libertarian last December. He has attracted the interest of Ron Paul backers who are disillusioned with the Republican Party.

The Associated Press

20120211_RonPaul2
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Ron Paul speaks to Maine supporters in February. Some of Paul’s backers are likely to vote for Gary Johnson instead of Republican Mitt Romney, observers say.

Staff file photo/Gordon Chibroski

Privately, some Republicans fully expect some Paul supporters to jump ship, and in some cases it appears the establishment has calculated that the party can withstand the defection.

The reason may be simple math: While Paul and tea party supporters are energized, their numbers are relatively small.

Sabato noted that Paul, who ran as the Libertarian presidential candidate in 1998, received less than half a percent of the vote.

"I think people assume that it's a larger vote than it actually is," Sabato said.

The stalemate with the party poses a difficult choice for Paul supporters and the tea party. Both had hoped to advance their causes through the Republican Party infrastructure rather than build a third party.

In Maine, as in other states, the movement has had some success working within the GOP, inserting a tea party platform in 2010 and this year.

The movement has also taken some power positions within the Republican State Committee.

It may be difficult to abandon those efforts to support a little-known governor from New Mexico.

"I'm really focused on the Republican Party, and I'm a member of the Republican State Committee and going to the convention as a national delegate," said Eric Brakey, a New Gloucester resident and Ron Paul supporter who was among the 20 delegates elected at the state convention.

"Right now my intention is to support the Republican Party. I'm not sure that going outside the party is going to be (a solution). We'll see how things play out in Tampa. I think any kind of third party option is premature at this time," Brakey said.

In addition, it's not clear that the party is ready to split with the movement that played a prominent role in securing electoral victories in 2010, as evidenced by Romney's decision to pick Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate.

Johnson's supporters seemed to sense that Ryan, whose austere budget plan calls for substantial cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, may be a threat. Last Monday, Howell authored a blog post that blasted the Ryan pick.

"If Mitt Romney had chosen Ron Paul to be his VP running mate, he may well have guaranteed himself the presidency this November," the post read. "But Mitt Romney is running his presidential campaign by special interest pandering -- not by serving the needs of everyday voters, taxpayers and private sector workers. Big Government Republican Mitt Romney chose the perfect Big Government complement to his presidential campaign in his choice of Paul Ryan."

Nonetheless, it's not clear if such rhetoric will persuade tea party activists like Brakey.

"My game plan is to work within the Republican Party and to strengthen the liberty movement within that party," he said. "At this point and time, I think going outside the party for other options is potentially counterproductive for what we're trying to achieve."

Staff Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:

smistler@mainetoday.com

twitter/stevemistler

This story was corrected to show Eric Brakey's current residence.  

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