Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson Closer to a 2012 Run?

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

Gary Johnson's political advocacy committee, OUR America Initiative, recently sent out a request for donations, which could indicate the former New Mexico Governor is moving closer to a formal run for the GOP nomination.

In the fundraising email sent out over the weekend OUR America Managing Director Ron Nielson pointed out Gov. Johnson's third place finish in last month's CPAC straw poll. He went on to say, "Now, game time is rapidly approaching. The financial course of our nation will be set during these next few weeks. It is critical that Gov. Johnson be in the thick of this fight and at the forefront of national discussion. There is no one more qualified to speak out on these issues and carry the banner of freedom. We know that these fights can be won - after all, Gov. Johnson already proved it in New Mexico."

Nielson's email does not directly mention a possible Johnson run for President. As the OUR America Initiative website points out, the organization is a 501(c)4 non-profit. As such it can receive unlimited donations from both individual and corporate donors, and by law Johnson cannot use it to run for office. But there are plenty of hints in Nielson's email, "P.S. Gov. Johnson will be traveling many more times to states like New Hampshire, Iowa, Florida, South Carolina, and Nevada over the coming months. He can only continue to do this with your support."

Johnson has already spent time in several states important for any potential candidate. In fact he will be in northern California this week to speak to the Solano County Republican Party at their Central Meeting in Suisun City on Wednesday. He'll then travel to the D.C. area to speak Saturday at the Students for a Sensible Drug Policy National Convention at the University of Maryland.

Johnson served eight years as the Republican Governor of New Mexico prior to Democrat Bill Richardson's eight year tenure there. Both Johnson and Richardson were term-limited.

Johnson has since made a name for himself in Libertarian circles for his impassioned advocacy of limited government. While his support for drastic cuts in taxes, spending and government payrolls would play well with fiscal conservatives, his outspoken support for marijuana legalization, gay rights and a woman's right to choose an abortion will put him squarely at odds with social conservatives. That fact, and his extremely low national name recognition make him a dark horse even among dark horses.

The former Governor's ultra-outsider chic prompted one blogger to ask recently, "Is Gary Johnson the Next Ron Paul?" But Paul himself visited Iowa last week, surely to test the waters before deciding whether he might run again himself. While Johnson did come in third in last month's CPAC straw poll, guess whose name was in the first place slot? If the role of GOP outsider in the coming race for the Republican nomination is filled by the real deal, why will there even be a need for the "Next Ron Paul?"