DERRY — Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is in the middle of a nine-day campaign swing through New Hampshire trying to raise his profile and standing in the GOP presidential primary field.
About a dozen people attended his 90-minute town hall meeting last night at Pinkerton Academy. He spent as much time as they wanted, lingering for questions and handshakes. He was sure to thank them for coming.
"I'm putting my chips on the table here," Johnson said. "I think I'm number nine on the Republican side now."
But in New Hampshire, number nine can go to number one, he said, not necessarily by winning but in beating expectations. "That's been the history of New Hampshire," Johnson said.
Johnson likes his chances better than those of former House speaker Newt Gingrich. "If you're Newt Gingrich and you're known by 100 percent of the Republican Party, and you're just a hair above me statistically when it comes to the polls, I think that sends a message. 'We know what it's about and we don't want any part of it,'" Johnson said.
Johnson's get-acquainted message was about studies showing that he ranks at the top among governors in the field for creating jobs and that his favorability rating is best among all the candidates in their respective home states.
About those jobs: Johnson said they resulted from creating an environment in which business owners knew things weren't going to get worse.
He talked about delivering a balanced budget to Congress in 2013 by cutting federal spending 43 percent, getting the military out of foreign wars and foreign countries, reforming taxes and supporting individual freedoms.
Johnson wants to legalize marijuana. "This is something I've done," he said, admitting to smoking pot. "I wasn't caught. I could be in prison, as could 100 million Americans."
He said he wouldn't restrict gun-owner rights.
Done with his message, Johnson asked if anyone thought he was wrong or thought differently. "Is there anything I've said here that shouldn't take place?" he asked. No one put up a fight.
He kept coming back to fiscal issues and the need for the nation to get its financial house in order. His reason: "I think we're on the verge of a monetary collapse."
Johnson also had a warning for fellow Republicans. "If Republicans lead with a social agenda, I don't think they're going to garner the presidency."