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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gary Johnson Puts Coal in R's Xmas Stocking; His 3rd Party Run Could Cost Them NM Prez Contest; The Early Outlook 

With his decision to drop out of the GOP contest and run as the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate, former NM Governor Gary Johnson now represents a dire threat to the New Mexico Republican Party and its hopes for defeating President Obama here next November. And there appears to be little they can do about it.

Assuming Gary gets the Libertarian nomination, veteran political operative Steve Cabiedes, experienced in third party politics, says his votes will come right out of the R's hide:

Disgruntled Tea party types will unite under his banner. He will take some Dem votes, but it is the R's who will suffer. It will make Obama's path to victory there much, much smoother.

He means much smoother to capture our state's crucial five electoral votes. Not that Obama isn't already favored to take them, but with Johnson in the race he becomes a heavy favorite and that decreases the pressure on his campaign here.

Johnson will make his formal announcement that he is dumping the Republican Party at a Dec. 28th Santa Fe news conference. It's not that big a leap for Gary whose stance in favor of drug legalization and minimalist government has always endeared him to the party.

The Politico summed up the dire numbers facing NM R's if Gary is the Libs nominee:

According to a Public Policy Polling survey of New Mexico conducted Dec. 10-12, Johnson as a Libertarian candidate could impact the vote in his home state. PPP found Johnson would draw between 26 and 30 percent of GOP votes, between 12 and 16 percent of Democratic votes and win independents, in a race with either Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich as the GOP nominee. Johnson on the ballot would help Obama win New Mexico, typically a swing state, by a 17-point margin, PPP found.

Politics is an unpredictable beast. The R's thought that the recently disclosed sex scandal investigation involving former Dem Governor Big Bill would play right into their hands next year, but it turns out one of their own former Governors is set to define this race and consign big Bill's troubles to relative oblivion.

Cabiedes says Johnson and the Libertarians have some spade work to do if he is to get on the New Mexico ballot. He says it appears the Libs would need to gather about 3,000 petition signatures to requalify as a recognized minor party and that Johnson would need about 6,000 petition signatures from any registered voters to qualify for the ballot. That should not be much of a problem, analyses Cabiedes.The petition deadline for Johnson is June 26 and April 3 for the Libertarian Party petitions.

JOHNSON OUTLOOK

Just what percentage could you expect Johnson to get on Election night 2012? He's drawing 50% in a hypothetical race, but once he becomes a third party candidate history shows that number will drop dramatically. And we go back in history for a race involving Johnson that may supply a clue.

In the 1994 governor's race former Democratic Lt. Governor Roberto Mondragon abandoned the Dems and ran as the Green Party nominee. He garnered 10% of the vote. Democrat incumbent Bruce King scored 40% and then-Republican Gary Johnson claimed the title with 50%.

Could Johnson trade places with Roberto in 2012 and come with that 10% number. We think that is in the ballpark, and that's a giant lump of coal in the Christmas stockings of New Mexican Republicans.

THE LITTLE THINGS

We understand that it's often the little things that get your goat. For example, in our coverage Monday of the latest federal probe of Big Bill we used the term "paint the jury" instead of the standard "taint the jury." David Collins comes with the critique:

I'm certain the phrase you're looking for is "taint the jury" -- or more correctly "taint the jury pool."

The concept of tainting a jury pool is widely recognized among trial attorneys. It's the main reason for pre-trial gag orders. It's the reason trials are sometimes moved away from the jurisdiction where an alleged crime occurred--pre-trial news coverage sometimes "taints the jury pool."

On Google, "taint the jury" returns 338,000 results. "Paint the jury" returns one percent as many -- 3,390. Your column is the second and third result. None of the other top results use the phrase in the context used in the column. Most of those 3,390 results find the phrase in concatenations of two sentences (e.g. "contain a lead hazard, chipping and peeling paint. The jury returned the defense verdict").

I can promise you, any attorney reading the site will have the same reaction to the phrase "paint the jury." If it were me, I'd change the phrase to "taint the jury" which I'm 99 percent certain is the phrase you intended to quote those "Sympathizers of Big Bill" as having said. I appreciate your work.

Well done, David. Actually, one of our sources on the story used the phrase "paint the jury" or at least that's what we thought we heard. It sounded like a cool variation on "taint the jury" so we went with it. But your research shows no such phrase so we are back to "taint the jury."

Copy editors are always welcome around here, but the pay is about what the elves at the North Pole are getting this week.

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