Gary Johnson to Participate in National GOP Debate

Sep 20, 2011 6:42pm

UPDATE: Gary Johnson 2012 released a statement Wednesday morning confirming that Johnson will participate in the debate.

Gary Johnson’s presidential campaign got a big break Tuesday.

Over the objections of the Florida Republican party, the former New Mexico governor is invited to participate in Fox’s GOP presidential debate this Thursday, a source at Fox News confirmed.

Candidates needed one percent of the vote in at least five national polls in order to qualify.

The Johnson campaign had not been officially informed of the decision by 6 p.m. on Tuesday, but they hoped to get Johnson on stage with the rest of his contenders this week.

Up to now, the lesser known-candidate has gained little national recognition, though not for lack of appearances. In addition to stops in New Orleans and Iowa, Johnson is one of the most ardent pursuers of early-primary state, New Hampshire.

His stumping often deviates from the traditional hand shaking and baby kissing.

On October 5, the former New Mexico governor plans to start a six-day, 458-mile bike ride across the Granite State.

Johnson is arguably the fittest candidate in the race. Sure, Sarah Palin popped up in a half-marathon in Iowa this summer, but from taking a jog with employees at a running store in Manchester to cycling in a 51.6-mile road race in Lincoln, and now this race that will take him from the Lakes Region in the middle of the state to Nashua in the south, Johnson makes getting his name out there a sport.

It’s all part of what Johnson calls The New Hampshire Path. In an open letter to Johnson supporters posted on the campaign’s website, Senior Adviser Ron Nielson acknowledges his candidate’s lack of recognition and finances. He writes that New Hampshire gives Johnson the opportunity to “create momentum.”

“Being the site of the first primary of 2012, New Hampshire is the center of attention for much of the nation’s media coverage of the campaign, and as Gary gains measurable support there, it will translate into broader support throughout the country.”

Campaigning in New Hampshire is not a new strategy, but focusing almost exclusively on the state sets Johnson apart in the 2012 Republican field.

Can this plan work? So far, it might not have caught on in N.H.

Earlier this month the Concord Monitor ran a profile on Johnson saying, “Although he’s made 15 trips to New Hampshire, most voters have never heard of him.”

But with news of Johnson’s invitation to the Florida debate, things might be looking up.

Johnson did take part in another Fox debate this May, but frontrunners Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann were not included in that event.

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