Self-made millionaire and former two-term New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson said on Thursday he will seek the Republican nomination for U.S. president in 2012.
Johnson, 58, made the announcement on the steps of the New Hampshire State House in Concord. New Hampshire holds an important early contest in the race for the Republican nomination.
"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."
Johnson is considered a long-shot candidate to win his party's nomination to challenge President Barack Obama, a Democrat who has announced he is running for re-election.
As a state governor, Johnson pushed for lower taxes and lower government spending, and set records by vetoing some 750 pieces of legislation.
"America needs a 'President Veto' right now — someone who will say 'no' to insane spending and stop the madness that has become Washington," Johnson said.
Before entering politics, he founded one of New Mexico's largest construction companies after starting out as a handyman to help pay for college.
Choosing New Hampshire
During the announcement, Johnson 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.
Criticism for Obama, GOP
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.
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.