Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, hoping to catch the rising tide of Tea Party-style populist anger, has been polishing up his quirky libertarian bona fides for what looks like a run at the presidency in 2012. Though Johnson is cagey, he has made it clear he’s sticking with the Republican Party, drawing inevitable comparisons to Ron Paul. But insiders agree the younger, suaver governor is a more viable candidate.
Johnson is cautious about hooking himself to the Tea Party wagon, fearing he “may not get that right.” But he appears to have the talking points down. “I’m finding myself really angry over spending and the deficit,” he tells Politico, and “over what’s happening in the Middle East.” One watcher feels Johnson’s anti-war stance will resonate much more with GOP voters come 2012. His support for drug legalization is more controversial—no major candidate has ever espoused those views.