The Gary Johnson Campaign: Media Buys or Consultants?
I promised one of my readers just before the election that I would do a blog post citing some links he found about how Gary Johnson's 2012 Libertarian campaign and how Jill Stein's 2012 Green campaign spent their money. During a discussion on Facebook, he posted these links showing that the Johnson campaign spent very little on advertising and a great deal on administration and consultants, while the Stein campaign spent a significantly larger percentage of its money (and more in absolute terms) on advertising. The breakdown as to what money went where is even more damning, with Stein's largest expenditures being media buys and Johnson's being various advisers.
What the heck? The Libertarian Party, although it's got the best ballot access of all the third parties, still suffers from the popular image that it's a party focused on legalizing drugs. When I was in high school, a friend of mine gave me a photo showing the three parties as cartoon characters, with the Democrats as a donkey carrying a board with a nail in it, the Republicans as big, burly elephant, and the Libertarians as a pot leaf with an assault rifle. Humorous as that was, the Libertarian Party is not going to get any traction if it's viewed as the party of stoners and gun fanatics. I'm not saying the campaign wouldn't need consultants and advisers, but when they eat up money that could be spent on, well, getting out the vote, there's a problem.
I do recall seeing a Gary Johnson advertisement on YouTube about how he was the only candidate who did not want to start a war with Iran, but when I searched YouTube for Gary Johnson advertisements, that was all I found other than an ad for Ron Paul and Gary Johnson that was around four years old. Meanwhile, I found several Jill Stein advertisements that got a lot more YouTube hits.
Of course, the obvious response is that Johnson ran one of the most successful Libertarian campaigns in history, getting one million votes and one percent of the popular vote. Jill Stein's results were much less impressive.
However, imagine how much more successful Johnson could have been if he spent more money on advertising. He could have gotten his name out there as the civil-liberties candidate, in contrast to both Obama and Romney. Although Romney could have used "the president can make you disappear" as a hammer to beat Obama with, he basically said both he and Obama can be trusted not to abuse this power and said U.S. citizens who join al-Qaeda are not entitled to due process because that's treason.
(Never mind the Constitution has specific provisions dealing with treason, but that's a different matter.)
Johnson could have also piggybacked on the successful marijuana-legalization initiatives in both Colorado and Washington. Given how Romney and Obama are both opponents of marijuana legalization, even in limited medical circumstances, promising not to interfere with state-level drug policy would have been a way to gain support from the voters who made marijuana legal. Given how Colorado Democrats feared Johnson would take enough votes to push Colorado to Romney, that was a MAJOR missed opportunity.
I did not hope Johnson could win the election outright, but I was hoping he'd be a spoiler in enough states that it might force the election to the House of Representatives. Colorado would not have been enough to do this in and of itself, but it might have been part of a larger strategy.
2012 was a massive missed opportunity. Who knows if another such opportunity will come again?