Republican operatives appear to be worried about the slow rise of Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson, who is now on the ballot in every state except Michigan and Oklahoma and could pose a threat to a Mitt Romney victory.
According to The New York Times
, the former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico angered many in his old party last year when he challenged Romney and others for the GOP nomination advocating issues such as the legalization of marijuana and a 43 percent cut in Pentagon spending.
He failed to gain traction then, but the Times reports some Republicans view him now as "their version of Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate whose relatively modest support cut into Al Gore’s 2000 vote arguably enough to help hand the decisive states of Ohio and Florida to George W. Bush."
As the race tightens between Republican nominee Romney and President Barack Obama, some are voicing concern that he could pull independent and undecided votes away from Romney.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus still calls Johnson a "nonfactor" in the campaign. But Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Robert Gleason, who tried and failed to keep him of the ballot in his state, warns that ignoring Johnson could spell trouble.
“This election will be close — if you remember, Bush lost by only something like 143,000 votes in 2004,” Gleason told the Times.
Concerns about Johnson turning into a spoiler has kept the Romney campaign and Republicans busy monitoring his efforts and engaging in what the Times described as "a surveillance operation" of sorts.
In Pennsylvania, Republicans even hired a former FBI agent to investigate petition signatures in an effort to derail the drive to put Johnson on the ballot in that state. A court settled the matter just last week, ordering his name to be listed as a presidential candidate along with Romney and Obama.
In Michigan, Republicans were just as tough as their Keystone State colleagues. Election officials there disqualified Johnson for the ballot because his paperwork, according to the Times, was filed three minutes past the deadline.
Johnson's efforts to be taken seriously are being helped by former Republican political consultant Roger Stone, a former aide to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, who left the party earlier this year because of its positions on social policy and other issues.
Stone, according to the Times, has become so upset at Republican efforts to shut down Johnson's campaign that he vowed in an email last month that "Republican blood will run in the streets b4 I am done.”
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