Was Gary Johnson's joke too shovel ready?

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson announced his presidential bid in April, but since then he's flown relatively under the radar: a June poll showed him polling at around 2 percent support. Johnson, a staunch libertarian, is an anti-interventionist when it comes to foreign policy, and vocally supports gay rights. Still, while his position on those issues set him apart from most other GOP candidates, Johnson holds up his record as governor of New Mexico as proof of his small-government, fiscal conservative credentials.
AP
Gary Johnson
Republican presidential candidate Gary Johnson.
AP

After Thursday night's Republican presidential debate, a handful of pundits declared little-known candidate Gary Johnson winner of "the best line of the night" - for a joke he made comparing Obama's record on job creation to dog poop.

"My next door neighbor's two dogs have created more shovel ready jobs than this president," said Johnson, prompting hearty laughter from the audience.

"That was the best line" of the night, concluded Fox's Charles Krauthammer, of the joke, during the post-debate commentary. "Had he said it early on, he might now be a top tier candidate."

Slate's Dave Weigel, in a column entitled, "The Best Line of the Night," wrote: "The candidate who had been kept out of polite society had just told a poop joke on the same stage as the next Republican presidential nominee. It killed. Johnson didn't even try to contain his screw-you grin."

The actual merits of Johnson's joke aside, reports have since surfaced that the memorable line was not quite as original as the candidate may have hoped: Earlier in the day, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh used a similar analogy on his radio show.

"My dogs have created more shovel-ready work than Obama has (chuckling) just this week alone," Limbaugh said. "The new puppy. Honest to God. More shovel-ready work for me this week than Obama has created all two and a half years."

And blogger Jeff Carter invoked a similar line earlier this week, pointing out even then that the joke had been made before.

"As many have said, 'My dog has created more shovel ready projects than Obama'," he wrote.

According to the Huffington Post, Johnson got the line from a former "Tonight Show" writer who "sent him several jokes late Thursday afternoon."

"He texted me about eight one-liners that maybe I could use so it was one of those things that, 'wow, that was really funny," Johnson told the Huffington Post's Sara Kenigsberg. He told Kenigsberg he had been unaware that Limbaugh had already told the joke.

Next time, maybe he should call up "The Late Show with David Letterman" instead.