GOP presidential hopeful courts pagans

Gary Johnson’s unorthodox campaign for the Republican presidential nomination continued Sunday, when he spoke at a Google+ town hall conducted by representatives of various pagan media outlets.

The former New Mexico governor spoke with members of the Pagan Newswire Collective, ModernWitch Podcast and, among others. He said it was important to reach out to voters that fall outside the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths, and slammed his own party for being too beholden to the Christian right.

“I think the world looks down on Republicans for their socially conservative views, which includes religion in government,” Johnson said. “I think that should not play a role in any of this. When Republicans talk about values — you know what? I bet you and I have the same values.”

Johnson argued that his small-government and fiscally conservative principles should make him a legitimate Republican contender, but that his socially liberal views cast him outside the conservative mainstream.

“I don’t expect to get the social conservative vote,” he said. “When it comes to Republicans, the majority of Republicans in this country are not social conservatives, but the overwhelming majority of Republican activists are social conservatives. I won’t get the social conservative vote in the primary, although I’d like to think I would get it in the general election. But I’m not trying to get it because my 10 other opponents [for the GOP nomination] are in the socially conservative category.”

In the far-ranging interview, Johnson also spoke on LGBT rights, drug policy, taxes, entitlement reform and even the teaching of Eastern practices, such as yoga and acupuncture, in American schools.

“I think this is a big step forward for pagan media on the internet,” said a note on the website. “And does much to establish ourselves as a community with serious concerns that deserve to be addressed on a national level.”

Johnson was included in some of the early debates, but his campaign has since struggled to remain relevant in the primary process. Minimum polling requirements disqualified the former governor from participating in the Oct. 11 debate in New Hampshire, and although his supporters have mounted a social-media campaign to get him back onstage, Johnson will not be participating in Tuesday’s CNN debate in Las Vegas.

“This whole campaign is about talking to anyone who will listen,” Johnson said when asked why he would take time to speak to the pagan media. “The belief being that you should get to hear from all of these candidates.”