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Monday, August 29, 2011

Invisible Candidate, Invisible State

Gary Johnson, a respected former governor of New Mexico, is running for the Republican presidential nomination. Unfortunately for him, he has to compete for support with a much better-known libertarian, Ron Paul. Johnson faces a conundrum: few have heard of him because he gets little media attention and he gets little media attention because so few people have heard of him.

Moreover, many Americans do not even know that his state is part of the country. In 2007 New Mexico Magazine editor Walter Lopez spoke about the problem with NPR's Lynn Neary:

NEARY: You know, Walter, when I first heard this, I really couldn't believe it. How often does this really happen that Americans don't know that New Mexico is one of the 50 states?

Mr. LOPEZ: It happens quite often. Normally, I would say in 50 to 100 different submissions a month.

NEARY: Do you have any favorites?

Mr. LOPEZ: Yeah. Yeah. Our favorite story is Phil(ph), who live in Santa Fe and he had a relative who was competing in the Atlanta Olympics so he desperately wanted tickets. So he gave them a call and the lady said, well, you got to have to call the Mexican Consulate in order to order your tickets. And he said, why is that? I'm in the United States. I'm in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The supervisor said, old Mexico, New Mexico it's still the same. You're going to have to call the Consulate.

NEARY: Do you hear a lot of common themes in these stories?

Mr. LOPEZ: Oh, yes. There's several common themes. People who have cell phones and visiting New Mexico and their service goes dead. The first response from the provider said we don't service Mexico. And I just had a person who went to the Post Office who's going to mail birthday present for a granddaughter. I believe it was in Las Cruses, New Mexico and it was an enormous amount of postage. And then she noticed the stamp on the package itself said foreign mail or something of the sort.

And the same thing with banks, you know. The lady who received a $50-birthday check from her parents, and she deposited it in local a credit union in Pennsylvania. And she got a notice from the bank, asking her if she wanted it in dollars or pesos.

If the United States chose presidents the way corporations choose executives, Johnson's impressive background would at least get him to the interview stage. But as Bill Richardson, another New Mexico governor, pointed out in a 2008 presidential campaign commercial, the nomination process does not work that way:

(The inspiration for the Richardson ad was a 1971 public service ad featuring a self-educated Abraham Lincoln confronting a sandwich-chomping interviewer.)