Johnson tries to make name in GOP field

Job creation, tax reform and immigration were all on the menu when former GOP presidential hopeful Gary Johnson spoke Friday at a National Press Club luncheon.
 
The former New Mexico governor also addressed whether he can increase his presence in the minds of voters enough to succeed in New Hampshire as he seeks the GOP presidential nomination.
 

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To do so, he must overcome his status as a little-known fringe candidate and differentiate himself from another libertarian, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), and another candidate from the Southwest, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R).

Johnson freely admits his lack of name recognition. “It’s well-known that I’m not well-known,” he said.
 
Johnson faces an uphill battle, having been out of politics for 10 years, and operating on what he calls a “shoestring” budget. Not that he hasn’t faced uphill battles before — Johnson climbed Mt. Everest and is an avid triathlete.
 
“I couldn’t afford it,” Johnson said of his decision not to participate in the straw poll last week in Ames, Iowa.
 
Johnson was left out of the Fox News debate prior to the poll, and CNN did not invite him to the New Hampshire debate in June.
 
Instead of expressing frustration at his lack of media attention, Johnson touted his resume of having vetoed more than 700 bills while in office from 1995 to 2003.
 
“I’m not frustrated and I’m not angry,” Johnson responded after those two words were used in his introduction. “I’m a believer in the process.”
 
Johnson, who describes himself as “the free market guy,” is calling for a 43 percent cut in government spending. He also supports the Fair Tax.
 
For now, Johnson is simply trying to break through to the upper tiers of candidates.
 
He notes the difference, however, between being a fringe candidate and a complete unknown.

“I’m the guy right on the bubble,” he said.
 
While some question why he doesn’t run as an independent, he only has nice things to say about his party.
 
“The Republican Party has been great to me,” he said. “I have no complaints with the Republican Party. I really have no complaints with the press either.” 

Johnson had kind words for Perry, too, calling him “likeable” and "charismatic," despite having previously called the Texas governor a “parody of George [W.] Bush.”
 
Though he mentioned his own tolerant views on gay unions, abortion and evolution, Johnson criticized his opponents for focusing too much on social issues.
 
Moving on to immigration, Johnson did have some harsh words for his party.
 
“I think the Republican Party has vilified Hispanics,” he said.
 
The solution to immigration issues is not building a fence, Johnson argued, but reforming welfare, making it easier for immigrants to obtain work visas and holding a grace period to document illegal immigrants.
 
Johnson struggled slightly during the Q&A when asked to differentiate himself from Paul, whose shadow may prove difficult for Johnson as he looks to the future.
 
“I’m putting my chips on the table in New Hampshire,” Johnson said.

The former governor will head to the Granite State for a nine-day “marathon” campaign visit, Aug. 20-28.