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Rep. Justin Amash says he won’t run for president

UPDATED: Sat., May 16, 2020

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., listens to debate June 12, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Amash, a Trump critic, said Saturday, May 16, 2020, that he has decided not to seek the Libertarian nomination to run for president. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., listens to debate June 12, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Amash, a Trump critic, said Saturday, May 16, 2020, that he has decided not to seek the Libertarian nomination to run for president. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)
By David Weigel Washington Post

Michigan Rep. Justin Amash has ended his bid for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination, just weeks after the former Republican announced it.

“After much reflection, I’ve concluded that circumstances don’t lend themselves to my success as a candidate for president this year, and therefore I will not be a candidate,” Amash wrote in a Saturday afternoon tweet.

Amash, who left the GOP in 2019 to become an independent, had been courted by Libertarians for years. On April 28, when he launched his presidential campaign – also on Twitter – Amash became the favorite to win at the party’s Memorial Day weekend convention, over some little-known activists and the party’s 2012 nominee for vice president, Jim Gray.

But Amash had told the Washington Post and other outlets he would only run for president if he saw a path to victory.

In a series of Saturday tweets, Amash said the path to victory was narrower than he thought, citing hurdles like a media “dominated by voices strongly averse to the political risks posed by a viable third candidate” and a public “understandably more interested in what life will look like tomorrow than they are in broader policy debates.”

The congressman’s announcement and interviews attracted wide coverage, but had not yet made much headway with voters. A CNN/SSRS poll released this week found that 69% of registered voters had not heard of Amash, while just 8% viewed him favorably and 13% viewed him unfavorably.

Other polls, which tested him in a matchup with Donald Trump and Joe Biden, found him with potential support in the midsingle digits – less than the party’s 2012 and 2016 nominee, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, at similar points in the race between Trump and Hillary Clinton. Johnson also had to work to win over the party’s delegates, who have frequently nominated former Republicans for president, gotten past some minor disagreements with them, then been disappointed by their vote totals.

Amash’s exit creates the first Libertarian contest without a former elected official in the mix. Gray, a former judge who earned attention for criticizing the war on drugs, has lost three bids for office as a Libertarian. Adam Kokesh, an Iraq War veteran and activist, has lost a Republican primary bid for Congress; Vermin Supreme, a political satirist, has run repeatedly in New Hampshire presidential primaries on a platform of giving every American a free pony.

They will now join activists like Jacob Hornberger and Jo Jorgensen at the party’s convention next weekend, where delegates are up for grabs and not bound to any primary results. In another Saturday tweet, Amash encouraged more voters to join the party “so we can continue working together toward freedom, peace, and prosperity.”

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