Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson says he represents the Republican party rank-and-file better than GOP nominee Donald Trump and argues that the country will realize it if he participates in the first presidential debate next month.
Johnson told CNBC that Trump has tapped into the anger that many Americans feel toward the status quo, but Johnson said, "That is not, in my opinion, representative of the majority of the Republican Party. And where's that representation? Well, I think it's me. I think it's me right now. It's the Libertarian Party. It's a big six-lane highway down the middle that Bill Weld [Johnson's vice presidential running mate] and myself are occupying."
See photos of Gary Johnson through the years
Gary Johnson through the years
Gary Johnson through the years
UNITED STATES - MARCH 3: Gov. Gary Johnson, former Governor of NM, speaks at the American Conservative Union's CPAC conference at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md., on Thursday, March 3, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 26: Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson pretends to have a heart attack on stage while arguing in favor of legalization of marijuana during CPAC in National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 26, 2015. Former Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-N.Y., not pictured, had just argued during their debate that marijuana caused an increased risk of heart attacks. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
ORLANDO, FL - SEPTEMBER 22: Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson speaks in the Fox News/Google GOP Debate at the Orange County Convention Center on September 22, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. The debate featured the nine Republican candidates two days before the Florida straw poll. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
File-This Nov. 3, 2011 file photo shows former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson addressing the 2011 Drug Policy Alliance conference in Los Angeles. On Tuesday, July 1, 2014 it was announced that Johnson had been named the CEO of a Nevada-based company that hopes to make medical and recreational marijuana products. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate for president, addresses an audience of students and the public at Macalester College, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012 in St. Paul, Minn. Johnson, a former two-term New Mexico governor, is on a nationwide college tour as part of his campaign for president. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Republican presidential candidates, from left, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, prepare prior to a debate Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
FILE - In this Sept 23, 2011 file-pool photo, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson speaks in Orlando, Fla. The Libertarian Johnson is running for president a second time after winning more than a million votes in 2012. (AP Photo/Joe Burbank, Pool, File)
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson announces his plans to seek the Republican nomination for president in front of the Statehouse Thursday, April 21, 2011 in Concord, N.H. Gov. Johnson says he has the resume needed to lead the country. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, shown at the Inn of Loretto, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 1999, in Santa Fe, N.M. Insurance companies that back a ``no pay, no play'' proposal, promoted by Gov. Gary Johnson, say they would save money if uninsured drivers were barred from making big claims. Under the legislation, insurance companies would be required to file new rates taking into account their anticipated savings from the new law in August. (AP Photo/Laura Husar)
Texas Gov. George W. Bush, left, makes a joke about the first time he met New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, right, as he addresses a crowd at a barbecue June 19, 1998, in support of Johnson's re-election campaign in Albuquerque, N.M. (AP Photo/Jake Schoellkopf)
New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson enters the Roswell Convention Center Thursday, July 3, 1997 surrounded by aliens. The governor and his family visited Roswell to participate in the 50th anniversary celebration of eth Roswell incident.(AP Photo/Susan Sterner)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
Johnson also said, "I've been a self-declared libertarian since 1971. What was the old saying? That if you weren't a Democrat in college, you didn't have a heart. And if you weren't a Republican in later life, you didn't have a brain. Well, I happen to think 'libertarian' kind of encompasses hearts and brains both. And that's what we are all about. ...This is the demise of the Republican Party. This is an opportunity, I think, for the Libertarian Party to become a major party."
Johnson's positions include a goal of eliminating the income tax and the corporate tax and replacing them with a federal consumption tax; not ending Social Security but reforming it, and legalizing marijuana. He says he is "open to" taxing carbon emissions to slow climate change, which he says is partially human-caused.
A former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, Johnson describes himself as a fiscal conservative, a social liberal and a non-interventionist in foreign policy.
A candidate needs 15 percent support in the polls to qualify for the presidential debates. Johnson is still below this threshold but not that far away. The latest NBC News/Survey Monkey poll, released Tuesday, has Johnson at 11 percent, with Clinton at 43 percent, Trump at 38 and Green Party candidate Jill Stein at 5.