Many libertarians might be inclined to cast their ballots for Johnson in order to send a message to the GOP. But anyone who is inclined to believe that Johnson could actually win the general election should disillusion himself immediately. The electoral game is too rigged in favor of the two major parties for a third party to break through and in any case the Libertarian Party’s nomination process occurs too late in the year for Johnson to have time to assemble the kind of grassroots coalition he would need to accomplish such a feat. Casting a vote for Johnson will only have the effect of sending a message to Republicans. Libertarians may want to consider how well that strategy worked with Bob Barr in ‘08. At best, Johnson may play the role of spoiler in New Mexico and elsewhere in the Southwest. The message that could send to Republicans is that libertarians are more an electoral thorn in their side than a valuable part of their base.

Faced with a choice between Romney and Gingrich, it would seem that Romney is the better option for libertarians. As our own Jeremy Kolassa has written, Gingrich — far from being a limited government, Tea Party conservative — is more like the Republican version of Barack Obama. Jason Pye has noted that Gingrich supported a federal individual mandate long before RomneyCare was signed into law in Massachusetts. Romney, meanwhile, is a Washington outsider with experience as a businessman in the private sector. He has offered a more consistent and coherent limited government platform than Gingrich has offered. And as an added bonus, he was elected governor of a state that has been dominated by Democrats for decades.

Just to make it officially official, I’ve decided to throw my support behind Gov. Romney for president. As much as I would like to believe that Congressman Paul could still win the GOP nomination or that Gov. Johnson could win the general election, I don’t think those hopes are grounded in reality. There’s too much at stake in this election to risk seeing Barack Obama elected. I think the libertarian movement would be far better served if Romney adopts some libertarian ideas and if we push for a libertarian running mate than if we decide to go third party in an effort to punish the GOP and help Johnson get — at best — 10% of the vote.

Your mileage may vary.