MILWAUKEE -- Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson positioned himself as the alternative for those dissatisfied with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump before an animated crowd gathered Thursday night at Serb Hall on the city's south side.
Johnson, a former New Mexico governor, said divisiveness would increase if Clinton or Trump were elected.
"If either one of them get elected, does anybody think that polarity in this country is gonna get any better?" he said. "No. It's gonna get worse that ever. They want to kill each other. That's all they want to do."
Johnson told the crowd that packed the 880-person capacity room during a pre-season Packers game that between Trump and Clinton is a "big six-lane highway down the middle."
"And the big six-lane highway down the middle is reflective of what most people in this country believe," he said. "Fiscally conservative, small government, socially inclusive. I think we're all questioning our military interventions."
Johnson's campaign is targeting Wisconsin as he hopes to qualify for the upcoming presidential debates. He started running radio in the state ahead of the campaign stop, and he was at 11 percent in the latest Marquette University Law School among registered Wisconsin voters.
Johnson told the crowd he believes he has a good chance of crossing the 15 percent threshold in national polls needed to qualify for the debates. Still, he assured the crowd "the clock will keep on ticking" even if he doesn't.
"So if it isn't the first presidential debate, I want you to know that this is a growing movement -- a significantly growing movement," Johnson said.
He said at this point, more than 70 percent of people do not know him or his running mate, but that if he makes the debates, 100 percent of America will.
"And that portends running the table on this whole thing," he said to applause. "We would not be doing this if there wasn't that opportunity."
Speaking with reporters before the speech, Johnson praised Gov. Scott Walker's agenda of reducing the size of government, but said he differs with him on social issues.
"My understanding is that he's done a really good job, that in fact he really has been about smaller government, and I'm impressed with what he has done," Johnson said.
But when it comes to social conservatism, he said that "maybe he steps over the line a little bit when wanting to put that on others.
"I would be different than Scott Walker when it comes to social issues," Johnson said. "Be whoever you want, but don't try and tell me how to live my life."
Johnson also highlighted his connection to the state, telling reporters he is a Packers fan -- calling quarterback Aaron Rodgers "about as good as it gets" -- and noting he has often vacationed in Wisconsin.
Addressing the recent unrest in Milwaukee over an African-American man being shot and killed by a police officer, Johnson told reporters black people are six times more likely than whites to be shot and four times more likely than whites to be jailed if charged with a drug crime.
"I think we've had our heads in the sand on this issue," he said, including himself among those who have done so. "We will deal with this, but it starts with awareness and I think we're dramatically becoming aware of this."
Speech audio (Sound cuts for 45 seconds near beginning due to campaign audio system problem):
Press availability audio:
-- By David Wise