Thursday night's Fox News/Google Republican presidential debate in Florida may have been the third debate in a single month, but it was the first debate that included former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson on the stage. As expected, most of the debate attention focused on the rivalry between front-runners Gov. Rick Perry and former Gov. Mitt Romney. However Johnson did squeeze in one witty one-liner that echoed through the political blogosphere: "My next-door neighbor's two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this president." (Reports later claimed that he lifted the line from Rush Limbaugh.)
Johnson's moment in the spotlight (albeit a rather small moment—after the debate he joked of being grateful for his "four minutes" of airtime) brought a new philosophical strain to the crowded field. Johnson espouses a diehard commitment to libertarianism. But, unlike the other prominent libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, Johnson is socially liberal. His pro-abortion rights views prompted the Florida Republican Party to object to his participation in the debate. Whether he will continue to appear at primary debates and other major party events is yet to be seen. Johnson is as bottom-tier as they come, and his debate debut came the same day another little-known contender Rep. Thaddeus McCotter dropped from the race. But Johnson's views—and jokes—do inject some fresh energy into Republican rhetoric that is already beginning to seem a little stale.
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