FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM | Bud Kennedy | August 17, 2012
But his hopes are just a pipe dream unless he wins over Republican voters loyal to never-say-quit candidate Ron Paul.
"Hundreds" of Republicans have promised Johnson they will switch his way if the Republican National Convention nominates Mitt Romney on Aug. 30, Johnson said Thursday.
"That's hundreds telling me personally, which means how many more?" Johnson said during a six-day Texas campaign swing.
He predicted a "gigantic influx" of support after Romney is nominated.
"People are holding out hope for Ron," said Johnson, a former New Mexico governor.
"After that, who represents Ron's voice best? Romney? Or me?"
Ten weeks from the start of early voting in Texas, Johnson is nowhere close to qualifying for a presidential debate and has been completely shut out of campaign buzz by the Republican cable-TV and talk-radio echo chamber.
His campaign message is thin enough to fit a GMC Tahoe window: "balance the budget," "end wars," "abolish the IRS" and "end the war on drugs."
Yet even before any Paul voters switch, his current 8 to 13 percent of the vote in Western states might be enough to tip pivotal Electoral College votes for or against Romney or President Barack Obama.
If Johnson takes away a swing state Romney badly needs -- "then let me be the spoiler," Johnson said.
And if he helps Obama win?
"Do I agree with him on dollars-and-cents issues?" Johnson asked. "Absolutely not.
"But we're closer on civil liberties. Actually, I think I take votes away from both Romney and Obama."
In a Deep Ellum restaurant Wednesday night, Johnson drew cheers by mentioning Paul.
"Ron Paul always said that he was a messenger," Johnson said.
"When Ron Paul's campaign comes to an end, who is going to be the best voice for liberty and freedom? ... It's going to be me."
Johnson said he's "the only candidate who doesn't want to bomb Iran" and wants to get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan.
"I'm the only candidate who talks about marriage equality from the standpoint of it being a constitutionally guaranteed right," he said.
"I'm the only candidate that wants to end the drug wars. Let's legalize marijuana. ... I'm the only candidate who talks about repealing the Patriot Act."
Paul's voters are two weeks away from listening.