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Johnson staffers back Ron Paul in NH


PORTSMOUTH, NH -- When former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson decided to leave the GOP to pursue the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination two days ago, his former New Hampshire staffers chose not to go with him.

This morning, Johnson's New Hampshire staff declared their support for Ron Paul -- with just four days to go until the Hawkeye State votes and 11 days to the New Hampshire primary.

"Like many political observers, we see clear and compelling differences between Congressman Ron Paul and the other candidates who will garner significant support in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary," the staffers said in a statement.

They explained their move to Paul was born out of necessity.

"We think the people who care about the things we care about should get behind Ron Paul....we wish Gov. Johnson well," Matt Simon, Johnson's former New Hampshire communications director, told NBC News on Friday.

The decision to back the Texas congressman came two months after Johnson suspended his New Hampshire-centric campaign in October. His staff left shortly thereafter in search of a new candidate.

Simon added that they would be willing to continue support Johnson in the general election -- assuming Paul does not win the GOP nod and Johnson wins the Libertarian nomination.

But for now, supporting libertarian-inspired ideals as early as possible is the top priority for the former Johnson staff.

"I've never been someone who votes for the lesser of two evils," said Simon, referring to New Hampshire front runners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

In addition to Simon, Johnson supporters who are now backing Paul include Brinck Slattery, the former New Hampshire state coordinator; Nick Murray, former Seacoast field coordinator and college coordinator; Andy Hauger, former Merrimack Valley field coordinator; and Eric Jackman, former Southwestern New Hampshire field coordinator to Paul.

The five will simply support Paul -- and, as of now, they will not formally join his organization or be paid. The Paul campaign could not be immediately reached for comment.

Joe Hunter, Johnson's communications director, told NBC: "With the New Hampshire primary coming and with Gary having announced he is running as a libertarian, it makes perfect sense for them to be supporting Ron Paul in the primary."