Gary Johnson won only 1% of the vote when he ran as the Libertarian candidate for president in 2012. And while most people still haven’t heard of him, the former New Mexico governor is slowly gaining traction in this chaotic election season, particularly among business owners.
With a strong pro-business message, Johnson could eventually could emerge as the third–party candidate who grabs votes from either former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or real–estate magnate Donald Trump, the respective presumptive Democratic and Republican candidates, political analysts say.
He and his vice presidential running mate Bill Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts, are likely to appeal particularly to Republicans who are uncomfortable with the populist campaign Trump has mounted. Not only are Johnson and Weld social liberals and fiscal conservatives, they espouse views traditionally associated with moderate Republican candidates on the economy, such as favoring international trade agreements and reducing the national debt.
He would reduce the federal debt and deficit by cutting federal spending, nearly in half. On taxes, always a top concern for entrepreneurs, Johnson would abolish the Internal Revenue Service, and ultimately replace the progressive income tax with a “fair tax,” or a tax on consumption. That would eliminate the corporate tax, which in turn could create millions of new jobs, Johnson says.
While it’s hard to know if the consumption tax could ever get mainstream traction, Johnson and Weld appeal to entrepreneurs because they seem to be a saner alternative to Trump, says Philip Wallach, a senior fellow in governance studies at Brookings Institution, a centrist think tank.