Between this, Weld’s other quasi-endorsements of Clinton over the last few weeks, Johnson’s various brain farts in interviews this summer and fall (Aleppo-related and otherwise), and his weird eruptions of temper in encounters with reporters, the Libertarian ticket this year is pretty much a total debacle, huh?
Actual libertarians, which Weld is not, are naturally unhappy with this appearance but it’s the logical conclusion of Weld’s drift over the final month of the campaign. He sees the race tightening, he knows any chance of a splashy double-digit showing next week for the Libertarian Party is gone, and he’s getting nervous that he and Johnson are going to end up “Nader-ing” Clinton. If the plane’s going to crash anyway, he’d rather turn it into a kamikaze mission against Trump. What complicates that, though, is that lately it seems like Johnson was more at risk of Nader-ing Trump. It wasn’t always that way: For months, Clinton did better in the two-way race against Trump than she did in the four-way race, suggesting that Johnson and Jill Stein were carving off more voters from her than from the GOP. That stands to reason, as young adults lean left generally but were ambivalent towards Hillary for most of the year, leading to curiosity in the third parties. Lately, however, it’s been Trump who’s moving up in the four-way polls as Johnson moves down and Clinton stays flat. On October 16th, Hillary was at 45.1 percent, Trump was at 39.4 and Johnson was at 6.3. As of this morning, Clinton’s steady at 45.3 but Trump is way up to 43.1 while Johnson has slouched to 4.6. It may be that Democrats who were leaning towards Johnson abandoned him weeks ago, after the first debate, as Clinton began to climb in the polls whereas Republicans who favored the libertarian hung on a bit longer and are only coming home to Trump now. Either way, it’s an open question whether there really are a meaningful number of Democrats still in Johnson/Weld’s tent. It may be that, at 4.6 percent, all that’s left are hardcore libertarians plus a-pox-on-both-their-houses independents. In which case, Weld’s endorsement here is nice and all but unlikely to give his own voters anything to think about.
I wonder if Hillary watched this and thought that, in a different world, Weld would have made a fine VP for her. Her pitch to upscale white Republican-leaning voters since the convention has been that they owe no partisan loyalty to Trump because he’s not a “real” Republican. Putting a former Republican governor on her own ticket would have been a dramatic way to draw that contrast and suggest to persuadables on the right that she wouldn’t be the hyper-partisan ogre in office that conservatives fear. (It would have made things interesting for Mitt Romney too, who’s a friend of Weld’s and said a few months back that he would have endorsed the Libertarian ticket had Weld been leading it.) But then, that never would have flown on the left: The reason Berniemania became what it did is that progressives fear Clinton is essentially a moderate Republican in Democratic clothing. Adding a GOPer to her ticket would have confirmed their suspicions and maybe kickstarted Jill-Stein-mania, which might have ended up costing Clinton votes on balance this fall. Oh well. If Hillary wins and decides to extend an olive branch to the GOP by putting a Republican in her cabinet, there’s no doubt who it’ll be.
Exit question: Are Johnson and Weld still running together in any meaningful sense? When Weld is asked here about a press release the campaign put out attacking Hillary over the Comey announcement, he explicitly disavows it. “Gary and I have not agreed on a number of substantive issues in this campaign,” he says at one point. “I talk with Gary every other day. We’re on different coasts usually but we keep in touch.” Touching base occasionally — in the home stretch of a national campaign? Okay then.
Update: Libertarians are angry. Will Weld stick with the ticket?
Governor Weld, critical of Comey's last-minute letter, does not agree with his running mate on this matter. https://t.co/xazmppMnjX
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) November 2, 2016