Gary Johnson announces presidential run

Gary Johnson
AP

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson announced today that he's running for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

"I'm ready for a different America," Johnson said in a statement today. "I'm ready for the day when a person can build a good life on a decent income, and we can take our government at its word."

Johnson announced his candidacy Thursday morning on the steps of the New Hampshire State House and plans to spend three days in the early-nominating state meeting with supporters and visiting local businesses.

Other presumed Republican presidential candidates, including former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, have so far only formed "exploratory committees." That means they can raise funds for parts of their 2012 campaign, though the Federal Election Commission considers such a committee different from an official campaign committee.

Johnson served as governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003, where he made a name for himself as a staunch libertarian. His anti-interventionist foreign policy, his support for gay rights (he has said he supports gay unions, suggesting the government shouldn't be involved in marriage at all), and his support for marijuana legalization have drawn comparisons to Republican Rep. Ron Paul, another possible 2012 presidential contender.

Watch Johnson discuss the legalization of marijuana and same sex marriage in the video at left.

On CBSNews.com's "Washington Unplugged" in February, Johnson said President Obama was too slow in bringing about the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

"I become emotional over the fact that we have young men and women in the service that are gay and can't express that, who are putting their lives on the line," he said.

While his position on those issues sets him apart from most other candidates, Johnson holds up his record as governor of New Mexico as proof of his small-government, fiscal conservative credentials. He pointed out in his statement today within two terms as governor, he erased New Mexico's budget deficit and reduced the state workforce by over 10 percent.

"Saying no to waste, corruption and political games is easier than you think," Johnson said.

He also pointed to his record of vetoing hundreds of bills that passed through the New Mexico legislature, which earned him the nickname "Governor Veto."

That nickname, coincidentally, draws another comparison to Paul, who's known in the House as "Dr. No" for voting against so many bills.

"America needs a 'President Veto' right now," Johnson said in his statement today, "someone who will say 'no' to insane spending and stop the madness that has become Washington."

While Johnson has largely flown under the radar as a presidential candidate, recent polls show there's no clear frontrunner for the GOP nomination. A 56 percent majority of Republican voters told a CBS News/New York Times poll that none of the names officially or unofficially in the hat at this stage made them feel enthusiastic as potential nominees. Additionally, a Pew Research Center poll showed that 53 percent of Americans could not name anyone when asked which Republican candidate they've been hearing the most about.

Watch Johnson on "Washington Unplugged" in February discuss his possible presidential bid.

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