Gary Johnson Switches to Libertarian Party

Gary Johnson has made it official. The Republican presidential candidate who got no respect has announced he will now seek the nomination of the Libertarian Party.

Johnson made the announcement Wednesday morning in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he served as the state's Republican governor from 1995 to 2003.

"This was both a difficult decision - and an easy one," Johnson said. "I have a lot of Republican history, and a lot of Republican supporters. But in the final analysis...I am a Libertarian - that is someone who is fiscally very conservative but holds freedom-based positions on the issues that govern our personal behavior."

The disparity between Johnson's positions on fiscal and social issues may have doomed his bid for the Republican nomination from the start. While favoring a balanced budget, ending Healthcare Reform and eliminating corporate taxes, he also supports gay marriage, a woman's right to choose and marijuana legalization. The latter positions did not seem to sit well with many in the GOP.

Johnson never rose above a few percentage points in the polls since announcing his candidacy in April. And he was only allowed to participate in two out of the nearly 20 Republican debates held in 2011. In his announcement Wednesday Johnson complained of being brushed aside by the GOP.

"Frankly, I have been disappointed by the treatment I received in the Republican nomination process. I had hoped to lay out a real libertarian message on all the issues in the Republican contest. The process was not fair and open."

If he wins the Libertarian nomination Johnson will be on the ballot in all 50 states and believes he will offer a clear alternative to those dissatisfied with the two-party system.

"In a recent national poll 63% of Americans said they wished there was a third choice for 2012. There is another choice, and I intend to educate the voters about what we offer America. I am convinced we can make history and restore America to greatness."

Historically, third party candidates have not fared well in presidential contests though they have occasionally affected outcomes by drawing support away from a Democratic or Republican candidate. Considering how widely Johnson's positions diverge on fiscal and social issues, it is difficult to predict whether his Libertarian candidacy would draw support away from President Obama or the eventual GOP nominee.

He'll first have to win his new party's nomination and earn enough votes to make a difference. That may be more difficult if someone like Donald Trump, who has switched his party affiliation from Republican to Independent, decides to make his own presidential bid outside the two-party system.

And then there is fellow libertarian-minded candidate Ron Paul, whose shadow Johnson never seemed to escape within the Republican Party. Paul has said he has no intention of leaving the GOP if he fails to win the Republican nomination, but some supporters have expressed hope that he too will eventually switch to Libertarian and run as a third party candidate.

*Fox News Producer Kelly Burke wrote this blog