While Ron Paul surges to the top of the polls in Iowa — and unlike the buzz candidates of the past year, Paul leads in surveys of likely voters — the other liberty-minded candidate who has sought the Republican nomination, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, is on the verge of announcing a third-party bid. In 2008, the Libertarian Party nominated another (relatively) high profile former Republican officeholder, ex-Rep. Bob Barr, in hopes of picking up the disenchanted Ron Paul vote, which certainly wasn’t going to GOP nominee John McCain. Barr, of course, was a fiasco, a dubious libertarian (who has since endorsed Newt Gingrich) who fared no better on election day than lesser known LP nominees without political experience had done in the past. Looking at Johnson’s Republican campaign, it’s easy to see another Barr in the offing. His foreign policy has been so muddled that at times Johnson has sounded as interventionist as Barack Obama — though as Leon Hadar points out, it’s open to question whether LP-types care much about foreign policy in the first place.

I hope, though, that Johnson does better than his GOP campaign has led us to expect: he was a great governor for New Mexico and certainly in a race between Obama and Romney, if it comes to that, Johnson would present an anti-statist alternative. Maybe an antiwar one, too, if he can get his head straight about humanitarian intervention.