A major kerfuffle happened earlier this week when The Boston Globe reported Libertarian vice presidential nominee Bill Weld was going to focus on Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. Both New York Magazine and New York Daily News suggested Weld was “giving up,” while Vice News claimed he was endorsing Clinton without actually endorsing her. AP has a pretty good analysis of what was going on, although he may (may) seem to be falling into the “Weld is really re-thinking his decision to be on the Libertarian ticket” camp.
Weld is denying any such thoughts. He posted on Facebook how he believed Johnson was the best candidate for 2016, and that wasn’t going to change.
“Gary Johnson and I are committed to offering voters a way to break up the two-party duopoly that has given us policy paralysis and divisiveness with which most Americans cannot identify. If one of the results of what we are doing is that the two so-called major parties temper their hyper-partisanship, then so be it. That would be a good thing for the country.
Let there be no doubt. I am the Libertarian nominee for Vice-President, proudly running with Gov. Gary Johnson, and both Gary and I will be running hard and making our case right up until the polls close on November 8. Our ambition is to serve our country.”
Weld also criticized both Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Mike Pence on Twitter during Tuesday’s VP debate, and also said neither candidate “was persuasive” on how they wanted to unify the country. So it’s not like he spent the debate propping up the Clinton campaign. To suggest otherwise is foolish, but that’s something the media seems to be more interested in doing these days. Blame Carl Bernstein for that, and others for taking some of Weld’s comments out of context (how can you say Weld endorsed Clinton, when all he did was say she had a great resume but bad policies? C’mon man…).
It should also be pointed out the claim Weld tried to get the ticket flipped wouldn’t work. Carla Howell with the Libertarian Party told me the idea of switching the ticket to Weld/Johnson isn’t feasible.
“Many states have print ballots already. Some have mailed absentee ballots.
The bylaws require that delegates to the Libertarian Nominating Convention (held in May this year) select the presidential and vice presidential candidates.”
It’s possible it was researched at some point, but it probably would have had to have been very early in the campaign.
One thing which is really interesting is a comment Weld told Reason saying he “would be emphasizing” where he thought Trump was “wrong-headed,” but also said he’d been doing that since “Day One.” I wrote a theory in August suggesting Weld was picked as the vice presidential nominee because he could draw in someone like Mitt Romney. It was just a guess because of Weld’s ties to the party, and the respect he had in the Northeast. After all, Johnson has this weird, goofy charisma which does attract Millennials. He’s gotten the Clinton camp so worried, they had to push Al Gore out on the campaign trail to help attract Millennials on global warming.
Johnson Weld 2016 communications director Joe Hunter had a very curious quote, when I asked if that was the strategy between the Weld pick (emphasis mine).
“The fact that Gov. Johnson connects well with Millennials and that Gov. Weld has appeal to disaffected Republicans isn’t a strategy. It just is.”
There is a bit of a risk with this, because there are libertarians (or libertarian-leaning folks) who aren’t interested in Johnson. A lot of them appear to be disaffected Austin Petersen supporters, who aren’t listening to Petersen’s pleas to vote Johnson in November. It’s possible they’re more purist libertarians, and their critiques of Johnson aren’t wrong. But he is the best alternative to a Clinton or Trump presidency. Johnson may be trying to prove this to Millennials, and teach them they’re really libertarian, not democratic socialists, while Weld can talk to disaffected Republicans who really don’t want to vote Clinton, but sure aren’t interested in picking Trump. Considering the fact Jeb Bush allegedly told people at Manhattan Institute to “vote Johnson,” there may be some truth to this idea.
As for a November victory, Johnson isn’t foolish. He knows the road is tough because he’s not in the debates. Johnson has long said the only way he could win outright would be if he were on the debate stage with Clinton and Trump. It won’t happen on Sunday, and might not happen for the third debate (unless Clinton and Trump do so horribly they cause even more people look elsewhere). A large part of this is the Presidential Commission on Debates, which does its best to insure only Republicans and Democrats are on stage (15% threshold…really?). What they really should consider is putting candidates on stage who are on the ballot in all 50 states. This would definitely get the Libertarian Party up there, and might leave the door open for candidates like Jill Stein or Darrell Castle to take the stage too. It does run the risk of having to form coalition governments, but it could also lead to a complete reshuffling of American politics, with more “big government” supporters coming together, while “freedom lovers” coalesce somewhere else.