Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson called the major-party nominees "tweedledum" and "tweedledee" during a third-party debate in Chicago Tuesday night and he urged Americans to "waste your vote on me."
Johnson is causing angst among some Republicans who consider him a potential spoiler.
They say he could draw enough libertarian-conservative votes from GOP nominee Mitt Romney in a handful of battleground states and conceivably throw the election to President Obama.
Johnson took on the spoiler issue directly. "Wasting your vote is voting for somebody that you don't believe in," he said. "That's wasting your vote. I'm asking everybody here, I'm asking everybody watching this nationwide, to waste your vote on me."
He said the Afghanistan war has gone on far too long, endorsed the legalization of marijuana, and called for the abolition of income and corporate taxes and imposing an expenditure tax instead. He also said political candidates should wear "NASCAR-like jackets" showing the names of the corporations and individuals that have paid for their campaigns.
Johnson, the former two-term governor of New Mexico, has complained about being excluded from the major-party debates, which ended Monday night. "There are only a couple of voices being heard [in the campaign] and it's tweedledum and tweedledee," he said.
Johnson has qualified for the ballot in 48 states and the District of Columbia. He ran unsuccessfully for the GOP presidential nomination this year. Johnson is trying to court the followers of libertarian Ron Paul, who also ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nod and had some of the most passionate followers in the entire campaign.
The third-party debate was moderated by TV personality Larry King and sponsored by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation.
Also participating were the Justice Party's Rocky Anderson, the Constitution Party's Virgil Goode, and the Green Party's Jill Stein.
Stein, who has run unsuccessfully for office in Massachusetts, supported free public higher education. Goode, a former congressman from Virginia, called for severely limiting legal admissions of immigrants to the United States.
Watch the full debate:
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Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He has written five books, most recently Family of Freedom: Presidents and African Americans in the White House. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.