If you have never heard of Gary Johnson you are not alone. He may not have strong name recognition nationwide but that is not stopping the former Republican Governor of New Mexico from kicking off a run for the White House, despite the likelihood he'll face a crowded and well-funded field of competitors.
Unlike many better-known GOP hopefuls, Johnson, 58, is skipping the exploratory stage and throttling into the 2012 race, announcing his intentions today in Concord, New Hampshire, hoping his libertarian credentials will appeal to voters in a state where "Live Free or Die" is more mantra than motto.
"My entire life I have watched government spend more than what it takes in and I just always thought there would be a day of reckoning with regard to that spending and I think that day of reckoning is here," said Johnson.
While it seems out of the ordinary for a serious bid, the fast-forward campaign is par for the course on Johnson's part. When he ran for Governor in 1994 it was his first political race and he won. The self-made millionaire, who built his fortune in the construction industry, won reelection in 1998 in a state dominated by Democrats. During his time in office he vowed not to raise taxes and vetoed 750 bills.
On many issues his views veer far from the traditional Republican platform. He's an outspoken advocate for the decriminalization of marijuana, supports a woman's right to abortion in the early stages of pregnancy and believes American troops should withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan. As a fiscal conservative, Johnson sees the growing national debt as a national security issue and says America's highest priority should be balancing the federal budget.
"Everything should have a cost benefit analysis, what are we spending our money on and what are we getting for the money we are spending," said Johnson.
In a Republican field filled with big names, big money and big personalities, Johnson's greatest barrier to gaining recognition may be a better-known family of fellow libertarians, Texas Congressman Ron Paul and his son Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.
"A key question for him is, does Congressman Ron Paul or does his son Senator Rand Paul get into the race?" said Dante Scala, a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire. "If the answer is yes, then that deprives Johnson of a key base for him to start with and that's the libertarian minded conservative voter. Ron Paul did very well among that narrow segment of the primary electorate back in 2007, 2008... especially in terms of raising money but also in terms of getting votes."
The Texas congressman still has a loyal following and is said to be seriously mulling another bid which means Johnson will need to find a way to stand out.
Perhaps that's why the relentless competitor is sticking around for an extra day or two, planning to ski one of the Granite State's most extreme and popular backcountry routes, Mount Washington's Tuckerman Ravine, where avalanches and ice falls are not out of the question. While it may seem like a stunt aimed at getting attention it's more likely Johnson's version of retail politicking. Since leaving office the former governor has climbed Mt. Everest and completed several Ironman Triathlons.