Baer: Time to look at Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson could be a reasonable alternative to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Gary Johnson knows he's unknown.

Here's what he thinks of known candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump: "If Mickey Mouse was on the ballot [with them], Mickey would be at 30 percent, because Mickey's a known commodity."

Suggestion's clear: If voters knew Libertarian Johnson, who is on the ballot for president, he'd be at 30 percent, eligible for the first debate Sept. 26 and in contention for the White House.

As it stands, Johnson isn't eligible. The Commission on Presidential Debates says you need 15 percent in five big polls by right about now to take part.

Johnson's Real Clear Politics polling average is 9 percent.

But maybe he makes the second and/or third debate: Oct. 9 and 19.

I hope he does.

I hope so, because he and running mate Bill Weld are former two-term GOP governors of very different states, New Mexico and Massachusetts, respectively, who balanced budgets, cut taxes and created jobs.

I hope so, because they profess a "fiscally conservative and socially inclusive" ideology they believe 60 percent of Americans agree with.

In a session with the Daily News and Inquirer editorial boards, Johnson said, "If you think either Hillary or Trump is going to bring everybody together . . . it'll be worse than ever." Weld said, "Hope is not a plan. Our plan is to file a balanced budget every year."

And, yeah, OK, dealing with states ain't dealing with Congress. And, yeah, Johnson's a little laid-back and loopy, residuals perhaps from his marijuana use, recently curtailed for his presidential run. And Weld's smoother, more polished.

And Pennsylvania isn't exactly a Libertarian hotbed, though state Libertarian chairman Shawn Patrick House says registration is "certainly higher" than in the past.

Of 8.2 million registered voters, only 47,149 are Libertarian. The most are in Allegheny County (4,917), Montgomery County (3,363) and Philly (3,210), according to state data.

But all that - and even Johnson's recent Aleppo gaffe, in which he didn't know the place central to the Syrian refugee crisis - shouldn't stop you from taking a look.

Why?

Because a presidential campaign should have more to it than a series of controversies and crazy talk. Because Clinton's controversies (no need to list them) and Trump's crazy talk (too long to list) won't end or even ebb.

Clinton just tried to turn negative reaction to her covering up of a pneumonia diagnosis into a double-standard attack since Trump hasn't released tax returns – as if nobody in the media goes after Trump on his taxes.

And Trump just said in a speech that Clinton has no policies, despite the indisputable fact policies are one thing Clinton does have.

It's a head-shaking campaign marked by images of Trump saying he knows more about ISIS than "the generals" and Clinton stumbling into a van.

And an NBC News survey released Tuesday says Clinton leads Trump by only 2 percentage points, 42-40, in a four-way contest with the Green Party's Jill Stein and Johnson (Johnson's at 11 percent, Stein at 4 percent).

So at least take a look. The Libertarian website is johnsonweld.com. Or try the politically unaffiliated website iSideWith.com for a short survey matching you with the candidate closest to your beliefs.

And if you're thinking, wait, a third-party vote is a wasted vote, a spoiler that can elect a president without a majority mandate, here's what Johnson's said: "I think a wasted vote is a vote for Trump or Clinton." Here's what Weld has said: "What's to spoil?"

And, by the way, the White House was won 15 times without a majority vote, including by Presidents Lincoln, Kennedy, Clinton (twice) and George W. Bush.

baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer