ALBUQUERQUE — The guy in the “Build the Wall” T-shirt left about 10 minutes into Gary Johnson’s speech.
But otherwise, the crowd was stoked. Or at least curious.
As the former New Mexico governor held his first rally as the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate last week, some members of his administration from the 1990s felt like the old band was back together.
There were aides from the days when Johnson was a Republican. Then there were the Libertarians. There were the guys in Western wear who looked like they keep a lot of their money in gold bars, and guys who looked like they had skied a 100-day season and keep most of their money in cryptocurrency. There were advocates for election reform, drug reform and immigration reform. One woman even sang to the former governor during a question-and-answer period.
The event had all the zaniness befitting a third-party underdog.
But there was something else, too.
Johnson has electrified a boringly lopsided race that looked like a walk for Democratic incumbent Martin Heinrich. And Johnson is doing it by veering from the usual script — speaking to Libertarian-leaning voters who once fit inside the Republican Party but are not so sure about that in the age of President Donald Trump.
And as Democrats grapple with their own identity crisis and wring their hands over calls from the base to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Johnson questions aloud why the country has a Department of Homeland Security at all while arguing for more immigration and legalizing weed.
These disparate audiences are hard to pin down. And the big question is whether they are enough to elect Johnson.
Either way, Johnson’s voters could prove to be a bigger problem for both Republicans and Democrats than either party might want to admit.