Gary Johnson plans to announce in New Mexico next week that he is seeking the Libertarian nomination for president, a source close to Johnson told CBS News. He will announce the decision on December 28 in Santa Fe.
Johnson, who was a popular two-term governor of New Mexico, is angry at the Republican Party for excluding him from much of the primary process. He has only been included in two GOP presidential debates, and says Republicans have refused his appeals to intervene to get him on the debate stage. "The Republican Party hung me out to dry," he told the Miami Herald last week.
Johnson boasts of having vetoed 750 bills during a gubernatorial tenure in which he also fired over 1,000 state employees, didn't raise taxes and left the state with a billion-dollar budget surplus. As a presidential candidate, he wants to eliminate the IRS and Department of Education and vows a 43 percent cut in federal spending and a 23 percent "fair tax" on consumption.
He breaks with the GOP on gay rights -- he backs gay marriage -- and wants to legalize marijuana use. He also opposes a border fence. The key area where he splits with Ron Paul, the other Libertarian-leaning candidate in the race, is abortion rights. Johnson supports abortion rights.
Asked about a potential Johnson run on Tuesday, Paul said, "some good'll come of it." Paul, who says he is not planning a third party run, is currently leading in polls of Iowa likely Republican caucus-goers.
In a fundraising appeal earlier this week, Johnson pointed to the dissatisfaction that Republican primary voters are expressing about their choices and complained bitterly that he was not better known.
Republican voters "don't know that one of their choices actually believes government should protect liberty and individual freedom - not dictate and regulate everything we do," he wrote. "And they don't know that there is a candidate who won't get us into wars we can't afford and shouldn't fight."
Johnson hasn't registered much in polls so far -- in a recent poll by Public Policy Polling (a Democratic polling firm), he's at just two percent in Iowa. If he's in the race on the Libertarian ticket, however, he could plausibly have an impact on who wins New Mexico's five electoral votes. A recent PPP poll in New Mexico found that in a race between Johnson, Romney and President Obama, the president would get 44 percent, Romney would get 27 percent and Johnson would get 23 percent. (Mr. Obama won the state 57-42 in 2008.)
Johnson's campaign has been meeting for months with Libertarian party officials, and Johnson has been publicly flirting with seeking the Libertarian nomination as it became increasingly clear he would not rise above the level of footnote in the GOP race.
The source close to Johnson said running on the Libertarian ticket made "practical" sense for Johnson because it would get him on the ballot in all 50 states. Asked if the candidate was concerned about being a spoiler for the GOP nominee, the source said, "obviously that is a concern that's raised 25 times a day."
But, the source said, the campaign's polling shows Johnson attracting votes from both parties equally.
"People have visions of Ross Perot, but it's a different environment, and Gary is a very different candidate," the source said.