Highlighting his background as both a governor and outdoor adventurer, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson announced his presidential campaign outside the New Hampshire Statehouse on Thursday before heading for a mountain known as the birthplace of extreme skiing.
Johnson, a Republican, acknowledged that he is virtually unknown in New Hampshire and other key primary states but said he won't be outworked when it comes to retail politics.
"I have to do, and want to do, really well in New Hampshire," he said. "So I'm going to spend a lot of time in New Hampshire, where you can go from obscurity to prominence overnight with a good showing in New Hampshire."
Johnson, who has climbed Mount Everest and is an avid skier and bicyclist, planned to follow up his announcement with some spring skiing Saturday in New Hampshire's Tuckerman Ravine, a large glacial cirque on 6,288-foot Mount Washington, the tallest mountain in the Northeast.
The ravine is a three-mile hike from the Appalachian Mountain Club's visitor center, and most who venture in strap skis to their backpacks for the climb up.
On a smaller scale, Johnson got a glimpse taste of New Hampshire's fickle spring weather Thursday when wind gusts threatened to topple a large campaign sign behind him outside the Statehouse. Staffers quickly moved behind the sign to hold it steady while he spoke.
"This is the first time I get to say this: I am running for the president of the United States," Johnson said to the applause and cheers of about a dozen supporters. "To do that, I think you have to have a certain resume, and I'd like to think I do have it."
Before serving as governor from 1995 to 2002, Johnson started a one-person fix-it business that grew to become one of the largest construction companies in New Mexico, with 1,000 employees. He said he can fix what he called America's bankrupt status by asking two simple questions: What are we spending our money on? And what are we getting in return?
"Everything should be a cost-benefit analysis," he said. "My entire life, I've watched government spend more money than it takes in, and I've just always though there would be a day of reckoning with regard to that spending. I think that day of reckoning is here. It's right now, and it needs to be fixed."
Johnson mentioned President Barack Obama just once, saying he supports repealing Obama's health care overhaul legislation. But he also criticized Republicans, saying they also are to blame for out-of-control spending.
"I think Republicans would gain a lot of credibility in this argument if Republicans would offer a repeal of the prescription health care benefit they passed when they controlled both houses of Congress and ran up record deficits," he said.
Johnson said he would bring spending down by raising the retirement age and making other changes to Social Security and reducing spending on defense, Medicare and Medicaid by 43 percent each. The latter two programs would become block grants controlled by the states, he said.
"That would be 50 laboratories of innovation," he said.
He said he opposed the Iraq war from the start and though he initially supported the war in Afghanistan, he no longer believes American troops should be there. He also supports legalizing marijuana as a way to eliminate much of the violence along the Mexico border.