Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is courting supporters of legalizing marijuana in Colorado, and it's possible he could draw enough votes from President Obama to throw the state to Republican challenger Mitt Romney on Election Day.
Johnson made his pitch to students at the University of Colorado—Boulder Monday night, and he got a rousing reception from the crowd of about 400. Colorado voters will vote next week on Amendment 64, a ballot measure which would legalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol. Johnson, who is also on the ballot as the Libertarian presidential nominee, supports legalized marijuana.
The race in Colorado is very close between Obama and Romney, so any substantial vote for Johnson from people who might ordinarily support Obama, such as liberals who want to legalize pot, would hurt the president's campaign.
In other competitive states, Johnson, the former two-term governor of New Mexico, is thought to be harming Romney's prospects because libertarians are sometimes drawn to the less-government philosophy of the GOP.
The major-party campaigns say a vote for Johnson is wasted because he has no chance to win the election. But Johnson said Monday night, "Wasting your vote is voting for someone you don't believe in."
He said he supports gay marriage and would impose deep spending cuts on the federal government. He opposes U.S. military interventions in other countries, would withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, and wants to greatly reduce Pentagon spending.
Obama is expected to visit the University of Colorado campus later this week.
Johnson will take his campaign to other battleground states, focusing on college campuses.
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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 email@example.com.