Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson asked voters to waste their ballot on him in the November election.
The former New Mexico governor, wearing jeans and a T-shirt with a peace sign underneath his blazer, spoke Thursday evening at Duke’s Reynolds Theater in a campaign tour that includes visits to 15 college campuses across the country. Johnson is currently on the ballot in 48 states and the District of Columbia.
Johnson called on Americans to reconsider supporting the two mainstream candidates, President Barack Obama and Republican opponent Mitt Romney, during his speech and a press conference held prior to the event.
“We all hope that Santa Claus is still coming,” Johnson said. “And you know what, it’s not gonna happen. We gotta do this ourselves.”
Johnson emphasized that he is in the race to win. In spite of the struggle to earn debate access and media attention, Johnson has the support of roughly 5 percent of the country according to various polls.
“The wave just needs to come rolling in the middle of October,” he said. “And believe me… I know how to surf. I’ll catch the wave.”
In the election process, Johnson hopes to change the debate by bringing his ideas to the table.
Johnson referenced an American Civil Liberties Union candidate report, in which he earned 25 liberty torches, more than any other candidate in the 2012 race.
He identifies himself as fiscally conservative and socially accepting.
Johnson differentiated himself from Obama and Romney throughout the night, most significantly on foreign policy. Johnson stressed the importance of decreasing U.S. military involvement abroad and bringing U.S. troops home.
“I am the only candidate that does not want to bomb Iran!” Johnson said.
Domestically, Johnson would repeal the Patriot Act, balance the budget, legalize marijuana, abolish the Federal Reserve and legalize same-sex marriage.
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Johnson has focused his campaign on young people and he highlighted important causes and solutions. Students are graduating with loans they cannot afford and are paying expensive Medicare and Medicaid costs.
“College students, young people right now, are screwed,” he said. “The worst of all—you are the ones that are putting your lives on the line.”
Johnson said young people will suffer the most from wars abroad and poor economic policy.
“I, if I was a young person, would revolt,” he said.
For Patrick Willets, an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the economy is the most important issue in this election. He acknowledges that Johnson needs to overcome the lack of name recognition in order to be elected.
“Gary Johnson actually has more governing experience than Mitt Romney and more than Barack Obama had when he ran for president,” Brad Hessel, a business consultant in Raleigh, added.
Hessel, like others in the audience, began to support Johnson after Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tx., failed to earn his way onto the Republican ticket.
Ethan Butler, a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, noted, if Johnson continues to emphasize on the legalization of marijuana, he might become known as the “weed president.” For Butler, sensible foreign policy is the most important issue in this election. He plans to vote for Johnson in November.
Whether he wins or loses this election, Johnson’s campaign looks to open up a political discourse that calls into question significant and often shared beliefs of the two major parties.
But Johnson remains cautiously optimistic for 2012.
“If everyone will waste their vote on Gary Johnson, I’ll be the next president of the United States,” Johnson said.