Former NM Gov. Gary Johnson launches presidential bid

Calling for a "reassessment of American government," former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (R) launched his 2012 bid for president Thursday on the steps of the New Hampshire state capitol. 

In an email to supporters sent as he officially announced his campaign, the libertarian-leaning former governor promised to "passionately" seek the GOP nomination, expressing confidence that his record of fighting for smaller government in his home state will resonate with voters.

"The fact is that many Republicans like to talk about smaller government, but my record is unique in this regard," Johnson wrote. "I had to veto over 750 bills in my quest to limit the growth of government, and many of those vetoes were of bills that were Republican-sponsored. It isn't always easy to go against your own party, but I felt that my primary duty was to the hard-working, taxpaying people of New Mexico."  

Johnson has focused his message heavily on the need to get the nation's deficit under control, telling supporters Thursday, "We can’t afford to simply kick the can down the road for another four or eight years." 

The greatest impediment to a Johnson bid gaining some traction among the GOP's libertarian faction could be Rep. Ron Paul (Texas). The two share a similar base of support, and if Paul officially gets in the 2012 race, the Texas Republican would likely overshadow Johnson. 

Like Paul, Johnson is a fervent opponent of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he rose to national prominence largely as an advocate for marijuana legalization. And unlike Paul, Johnson has made little effort to court the more traditional parts of the Republican Party's base as he has campaigned in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire. 

"It is what it is,” Johnson said of his marijuana stance in an interview with The Hill's Christian Heinze, who sized up Johnson's 2012 prospects in a recent profile piece. "From the context of 'The Emperor Wears No Clothes,' I'm the only politician that’s saying the emperor is wearing no clothes. That's not such a bad deal."

Johnson's email to supporters Thursday focused entirely on spending and the deficit, with no mention of his stance on marijuana legalization. The email doubled as a fundraising appeal. 

Fundraising is likely to be Johnson's greatest early challenge. Since 2009, he has promoted his agenda through an issue-oriented group titled "Our American Initiative," but is unable to use any of those funds for a 2012 bid.