Gary Johnson: Will Libertarian Influence 2012 Presidential Election?

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When the 2012 presidential debates kick off Wednesday, Gary Johnson will not be there.

The often overlooked libertarian may still have an impact on the election, however.

Gary Johnson Photo

According to a new poll by Reason, President Barack Obama leads challenger Mitt Romney, but the Libertarian Party's Johnson garners a statistically significant 6 percent.

Johnson pulls votes from both major-party candidates, the survey found.

A former two-term governor of New Mexico and before that a self-made construction businessman, Johnson has always been known for his low-tax views.

He first sought the presidency via the Republican nomination last year, but after being excluded from those debates, launched his third-party run in 2012.

While facing overwhelming odds against Democratic incumbent Obama and Republican nominee Romney, Johnson could still be a factor in next month's election.

Siphoning enough votes from one candidate could benefit the other in a number of closely-contested states, and many of his views are in line with the mainstream.

About 61 percent of poll respondents said that wealth disparities are an acceptable part of the American economic system and not something the government can fix.

"One of the reasons they may believe that," explains Reason's Emily Ekins, "is that 59 percent think that individuals have an equal opportunity to succeed in this country."

Also, 45 percent of Americans want the federal government to pass fewer laws, compared with around one-third who think it should be more active.

"However," she notes, "there is one law that voters overwhelmingly would like to see passed - and that's a law to audit the Federal Reserve."

Somewhere, Ron Paul is smiling. And/or seething that he won't be on that stage either.