ABC News’ Rick Klein and Gregory Simmons report:
With the 2012 race taking some time to coalesce, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and his libertarian views may be crowded out by talk – stoked at a major conservative conference this week – that Rep. Ron Paul will make another bid for the presidency.
But on ABC’s “Top Line” today, Johnson told us that having both he and Paul, R-Texas, in the field is good for libertarian-leading Republicans.
“Republicans need to grow their base. So I think the fact that there are a couple people talking about the same thing — arguably Ron Paul and myself — I think that’s a good thing,” said Johnson, R-N.M. “It needs to grow from where Ron Paul was in the last election cycle if these ideas are going to successful.”
As for his own potential candidacy, he said: “I wouldn’t be sitting here right now if the response hasn’t been really well over the last 14 months. I was kind of — I live in Taos, N.M. I live there because the skiing is as good as any on the planet. And that’s my passion, and I was kind of looking to get egged or tomatoed to send [me] back there.”
Johnson and a parade of other possible candidates are in Washington this week for the annual Conservative Political Action Committee conference.
He said he also welcomes Donald Trump – scheduled to address CPAC this afternoon — to the race for the White House: “Republicans have to grow the base. I just think that Republicans are the only party that saves us from where we’re at, and to do that we have to grow the base. And Donald Trump ought to bring maybe part of that along.”
Johnson – who has drawn headlines for his endorsement of legalizing marijuana — declared that budget-cutting “starts with” the giant, budget-busting entitlement programs, plus Pentagon spending.
“We’re on the verge of an imminent financial collapse unless we right the financial ship. And to balance the budget we need to cut 43 percent of what government spends and that starts with Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and Defense.”
Also today on “Top Line,” ABC News’ Jonathan Karl took a ride on the Capitol Subway with newly elected Senator John Boozman, R-Ark., as a continuing part of his “Subway Series.” Boozman, who defeated democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln last November, was surprisingly complimentary of President Obama’s handling of Egypt.
You can watch that interview HERE:
“I think the president’s done a good job,” he said. “I think it’s very important that we do support the president as we go forward. If not, then you send mixed messages which is not a good situation. There will be a time when everyone will argue about this one way or the other. For right now I think the president is doing a good job trying to send a good message.”
ABC News asked Boozman to get specific on budget cuts — namely if farm subsidies should be on the cutting table.
“You know, it’s easy to say you want a balanced budget amendment. It’s easy to say in the abstract. But I’m asking you about a specific bit of spending that really affects your state, agriculture subsidies. Are you willing to see those significantly cut,” Karl asked.
“ Well you know I think again you establish the parameters,” Boozman said. “Once you do that then you know we get in and look and see you know what we can done.”
“But it doesn’t sound like ag subsidies will be at the top of your list for things to cut,” ABC News pressed.
“We’re going to have to look at everything but ag subsidies are like everything else. That affects jobs,” the senator said. “Now listen, the one thing about agriculture is we’ve lost our manufacturing, we’ve lost a great deal of jobs overseas, lots of our industry. The last thing in the world we need to do is lose the ability to produce our food.”
When asked about to the 2012 GOP Presidential field, Boozman was reluctant to name a favorite.
“Right now there is nobody that is running away with it. I like some of the young guys like Senator Thune. He’s a guy that looks good. He’s very articulate, he’s very smart, and he truly is a public servant. You’ve got the governor of New Jersey, you’ve got people like Romney, Haley Barbour, some of these other guys. But again, none of these guys have really fired off. It truly is up for grabs,” he said.
It was only after Senator Boozman was pressed about a possible Sarah Palin run he conceded he’d likely support the “hometown son,” former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
“I’ll be supporting him because he’s from Arkansas and he’s a good friend, the Senator said. “And I think he’s a very capable guy.”