With the 2012 Presidential campaign about to go into full swing, poker players start wondering which candidate(s) should get their vote. Although with the budget deficit problems in the foreground, poker issues might not seem to be of primary importance; some candidates do find the time and resources to tell the public they take poker seriously. And what's most important is these candidates support online poker legislation and players' right to enjoy their passion.
One candidate is the former governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson. Although the Republican candidate is not (yet) considered to be the one with a chance to challenge President Obama in the 2012 elections, Johnson is pretty confident in distinguishing the main differences between him and the current president when it comes to online poker.
“The difference between myself and [President] Obama, and this can be seen with the kind of transparency I had as governor, is that you wouldn't have to guess what my thoughts were regarding online poker,” he said in a phone interview.
Johnson claims that if he had been the U.S. president five years ago he wouldn't have let the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act pass by vetoing the SAFE Port Act of 2006. “I would have vetoed the bill and said to send it back clean, with no attachments,” said Johnson.
The presidential candidate appears to be the one with the will to use his powers as the president to stand strong for his beliefs and not tolerate laws and decisions he thinks are wrong. Well, at least that's what he declares.
“Don't underestimate the power of being president or governor and being able to control rules and regulations. Don't underestimate the ability of a president to turn your back on issues and laws that just aren't right,” continued Johnson in his interview.
Among the many Republican candidates, Johnson is the one with a strong support for poker players. In July the media made his name known nation-wide by reporting the news of Johnson openly seeking poker players' vote. His official website for the 2012 campaign features a poker page stating:
“It's your money. The government has no business telling adults how they can spend it.”
“The federal government should not be involved in restricting lawful commerce that doesn't harm anyone.” – Gary Johnson.
The Republican candidate made his point even more prominent when he attended the 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event and spent hours interacting with poker players and the poker community. Johnson made it clear that he considers poker to be a game of skill like chess and backgammon and that he enjoys playing the game himself.
In fact, online poker is not the only thing that Johnson believes the government should take a more liberal approach to. He believes in a person's right to act free as long as it's their own choice and that the government's interference with the citizens' personal affairs should be minimized. Johnson says that the government should not strive to protect people against themselves: “That should be the last thing concerning a politician.”
Apart from urging the licensing and regulation of online poker, Johnson also states that if he was to become president, he would support the legalization of marijuana and prostitution. Although this does not by any means coincide with the official policy of the Republican Party, Johnson seems to be more driven by the logical perspective rather than following the party line. He believes that prohibitions the government puts on its citizens do not work in general and that it is always better to regulate and profit from these activities instead of fighting them.
“Millions of people in America are hurt by drug laws when they otherwise would be law-abiding citizens. It's never going to be legal to smoke pot, become impaired, go out driving and put others in harms way. That is when you cross the line. If you want to sit at home and drink martinis instead of exercising, that is something you should be able to decide. If you want to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, I'd say that's a stupid choice, but it's something you should be able to decide. If you don't want to wear a seat belt, that is something you should be able to decide. There's no end to what the government and politicians will try to legislate.”
Still, such strong declarations coming from a politician before the elections can be perceived as an attempt to attract more votes and not taken for granted coming from a candidate of a minor caliber. However, serving as governor of New Mexico, Johnson had gained a reputation of a politician who sticks to his word. During his time in office from 1994 to 2002, Johnson vetoed 750 bills in order to keep his promise not to raise taxes. Because of this Johnson became known as 'Governor Veto.'
With the current situation of the United States facing a huge budget deficit, Johnson's way of doing things might seem as the one that would be effective in the White House. Instead of raising taxes, Johnson believes it's much more efficient to make drastic cuts in government spending. “The government spends too much because it does too much,” Johnson said.
However, with a number of Republican candidates still competing for that one spot in the main presidential election, Johnson's approach is not as unique as it might seem. Congressman Ron Paul's (R-Tex.) campaign appears to be quite similar to Johnson's. And Paul is already a recognized libertarian candidate polled at 6 percent in the latest CNN poll whereas Johnson only had the support of 2 percent.
And although the former New Mexico governor says he admires his competitor and admits their thoughts concur on many issues, Johnson thinks that his advantage over Paul is that he has experience in making his ideas into actions, while the Texas Congressman is more of a legislator. Still, Paul's name and his ideas are more widely spread and known to the American electorate through his earlier presidential candidacies, whereas Johnson is rather new in the field.
So which of the two should poker players choose?
Greg Raymer, a member of the Poker Players Alliance (ThePPA) board of directors and advisor for FairPlayUSA says he liked everything he seen and heard of Gary so far. Raymer met Johnson in 2010 at the Conservative Political Action Conference and seems to have grown fond of the ex-governor. “He definitely has that presidential look and feel about him,” Raymer said. “Paul comes off as a nerdy professor type, and some people don't want this nerdy old man as our president. They want someone who can come across as a little more badass when dealing with foreign dignitaries. Of all the announced candidates for president at this time, Gary Johnson would be my pick.”
Unfortunately for Johnson he lacks two highly important factors in the battle to become the Republican weapon against Democrats – funding and support. On the other hand, he has a good reputation and despite his priorities not being those that the majority of Americans would expect from a republican candidate, Johnson believes that his big moment will come in the near future.
One advantage that Johnson has in this situation is experience. When he first entered the race for governor in New Mexico, he was new in the game and the polls were not in his favor. However, due to his strong liberal beliefs, Johnson was able to gain momentum and finally won the election beating Democratic governor Bruce King by 50% to 40%.
Entering the presidential campaign means stepping into a whole new level for Gary Johnson and pulling off what he did 17 years ago might be too big of a challenge. Still, the former New Mexico governor believes he's got what it takes.