ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:
Former Gov. Gary Johnson jumped into the 2012 presidential race this week, bringing his libertarian leanings – and his much-noted support for legalizing marijuana – into a still-fluid Republican field.
On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Johnson, R-N.M., told us that he’ll be concentrating his campaign on “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire, in the hopes of vaulting into prominence.
“You can't deny that I am the underdog,” Johnson said from WMUR-TV studios in the Granite State.
New Hampshire, he said, is “a state where you got to go out and meet everybody. And you've got to cuss and discuss and debate the issues, which is a terrific environment. And I'm going to be engaged in that environment here, and possibly go from obscurity to a prominence when it comes to the issues of the day.”
As for policy matters, Johnson isn’t shy to discuss areas where he may break with GOP dogma.
“I support gay unions. I think the government ought to get out of the marriage business. And then for me as governor of New Mexico, everything was a cost-benefit analysis. There weren't any sacred cows --everything was a cost-benefit analysis. What are we spending money on and what are we getting for the money that we're spending? So in that sense, the drug war is absolutely a failure.”
He also said Republicans should be more aggressive than they’ve been in cutting federal spending. They should take on entitlement programs, too; Medicare and Medicaid could be slashed by 43 percent and turned into grant programs for the states to distribute.
“I think we should balance the federal budget tomorrow,” Johnson said. “I'm optimistic. I think Americans are optimistic. We went to the moon, we can balance the federal budget. We can fix this…. We're not addressing the problems that we face, and that starts with Medicaid, Medicare, reforming Social Security and Defense. And I mean cutting those areas.”
Watch the interview with Gary Johnson HERE .
We also showcased Jonathan Karl’s latest “Subway Series” interview with Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who told us if the so-called “Gang of Six” talks fail to produce a concrete plan to cut the deficit, “I'm going to have wasted five years of my life.”
Watch that portion of "Top Line" HERE .