BOULDER – Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson riled up young supporters Monday night with a message of legalized marijuana, an end to U.S. involvement in wars and massive cuts to the federal government.
A crowd of 600 spilled out of a lecture hall at the University of Colorado in Boulder to hear Johnson’s message, the same day that his running mate held a rally in Durango.
“People are hungry to vote for a leader,” Johnson said. “People don’t want to vote for the lesser of two evils. People actually want to vote for somebody they think will make a difference.”
He mocked the leading candidates, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, saying he agrees with everything Obama says.
“You’ve got to vote for the guy if it’s based on what he says, but you can’t vote for him if it’s based on what he’s done, because nothing he’s done matches up with the rhetoric,” Johnson said.
Johnson, dressed in a blue blazer over a peace-sign T-shirt, pushed for a radically smaller American footprint overseas.
While Romney criticized Obama for not doing enough to protect U.S. diplomats in Libya, Johnson said this country should not have had diplomats in Libya in the first place.
“I’m the only candidate who doesn’t want to bomb Iran,” Johnson said. “I’m the only candidate running for president of the United States who wants to get out of Afghanistan tomorrow and bring the troops home.”
Johnson also called for an end to the Federal Reserve and for deep cuts to Medicare for the elderly, calling the program unsustainable. Obama and Romney have argued about who will do more to protect Medicare spending.
One man in the crowd challenged Johnson on the Libertarian platform that says education is best provided by the free market, not public schools.
“I don’t know what’s on the Libertarian website, I apologize,” Johnson said.
He said he would abolish the U.S. Department of Education, but he wouldn’t try to tell Coloradans what to do with their public schools.
Johnson served as governor of New Mexico as a Republican from 1995 to 2003.
“I may have vetoed more legislation than the other 49 governors in the nation combined,” Johnson said.
One of those bills would have quadrupled fines for speeding in a highway work zone.
A number of Johnson’s supporters gravitated to him because he was among the first American governors to call for an end to the war on drugs. He supports Colorado’s Amendment 64, which would legalize and regulate the possession of marijuana for personal use.
“Colorado has the opportunity to change worldwide drug policy by voting yes for proposition 64,” Johnson said. “I go around the country telling people, Coloradans get it.”
In a recent public poll of Colorado, he took 2 percent of the vote and drew more voters from President Barack Obama than Republican Mitt Romney.
In the Public Policy Polling survey released Oct. 25, Obama was beating Romney 49 percent to 46 percent when Johnson was included in the question. Obama’s margin grew to 4 points in a head-to-head matchup with Romney.
Other recent polls have shown Romney with a slight lead in Colorado, but they have not included Johnson as an option.
“In Colorado, in New Mexico, in Nevada, I take more votes away from Obama,” Johnson said in a brief interview. “I’m more liberal than Obama on social issues and more conservative than Romney on dollars and cents.”