LOS ANGELES -- Medieval alchemists may have spent lifetimes seeking a way to turn base metals into silver or gold, but Gary Johnson, the libertarian former governor of New Mexico, seemingly has found a way to make political gold out of dog poop.

In a throwaway line at the GOP presidential debate on Thursday night, Johnson, whose campaign for the nomination is struggling to get into single digits, won the comedy award of the night during questioning about the Obama administration's stimulus spending plans. "My next-door neighbor's two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this current administration," he shot back.

The line, which many critics have noted, echoes similar put-downs by radio personality Rush Limbaugh, among others, still rocked the house, proving that oldies are always goodies. It also brought a moment of recognition to Johnson, making his first serious national debate appearance, and for one quick shining moment allowed him to break away from the pack of Republican nominees.

On Friday, Johnson followed up with a visit to Florida conservatives. He outlined his oft-repeated calls for smaller government, less taxes and more social freedom, with the line that may explain everything from politics to communication.

"Right now I am the most Googled name on the planet, because last night I came up with a witty sentence on dog poop," Johnson said as the audience laughed.

There was no immediate claim that Johnson had stolen that joke as well.