This could qualify as the strangest presidential cycle in anyone’s memory already, but according to Carl Bernstein, it nearly got even weirder. On Saturday, he reported that Libertarian Party vice-presidential nominee William Weld was thinking about dropping out and endorsing Hillary Clinton, and perhaps even joining her campaign as a surrogate:
Bill Weld could be a hero–instead of a Nader–if he renounces his own Libertarian candidacy and endorses/campaigns for HRC. Stay tuned.
— Carl Bernstein (@carlbernstein) September 17, 2016
Bernstein explained this potential move to Brian Stelter on CNN’s Reliable Sources as motivated by Weld’s intense dislike for Donald Trump (via Newsmax):
“I think that Bill Weld … is thinking about dropping out of this race if it looks like he and Gary Johnson might get Donald Trump elected,” he said.
“Weld despises Trump. I don’t think he’s made up his mind, but it’s certainly a point if it looks like that it would… go help Hillary Clinton. So stay tuned on that.”
Well, that would certainly have made things a bit awkward for the Johnson/Weld joint interview last night on CBS’ 60 Minutes, no? Weld insisted in a statement that these reports were just “wishful thinking“:
In a statement on Sunday afternoon, Weld responded: “Gary Johnson and I will campaign with all our strength to make that case to the American people from now until November 8th. Under no circumstances will our energies be diverted from our goal of winning the election and serving our country.”
Weld attributed Bernstein’s reporting to “wishful thinking on the part of the two-party duopoly.”
Well, some might describe the chances of Johnson/Weld victory as wishful thinking, too, but with 50 days to go, the idea that Weld would suddenly discover his inner Team Hillary identity is a bit laughable. No one would have taken it seriously if Bernstein hadn’t put his imprimatur on the sourcing. The Watergate investigative-journalism star might want to recheck his sources after the denials today.
Gary Johnson shrugged it off when asked about the rumor on New Day. He was more interested in arguing his latest talking point — that he’s polling better than Ross Perot in 1992, who was invited to join the presidential debate:
Gary Johnson says his running mate is not dropping out of the race: Bill Weld is in this "for the long-haul" https://t.co/xZIyosVupP
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 19, 2016
Perot’s inclusion in the debates preceded the 15% polling rule, which took effect in 2000. The Commission on Presidential Debates formed in 1988 when the League of Women Voters ended their association with the televised debates out of disgust for the end results. Johnson has twice sued the CPD for this exclusion, the second time a year ago with Jill Stein and both the Libertarian and Green Parties, but lost both times. The latest loss took place last month, in fact. Judge Rosemary Collyer wrote that the anti-trust claim was bogus, and that the lack of media attention to the campaigns were not caused by the CPD:
Likewise, Plaintiffs in this case have not alleged a non-speculative injury traceable to the Commission. In the same vein as Ms. Fulani, Plaintiffs complain that “[t]o be excluded from the debates is an electoral death sentence” and that exclusion from Commission sponsored debates deprives them of free national advertising that is essential to the Libertarian and Green Party campaigns. Compl. ¶¶ 45-46. Plaintiffs’ alleged injuries are wholly speculative and are dependent entirely on media coverage decisions. The alleged injuries––failure to receive media coverage and to garner votes, federal matching funds, and campaign contributions—were caused by the lack of popular support of the candidates and their parties sufficient to attract media attention. It is obvious that Defendants did not cause Plaintiffs’ alleged harms when the sequence of events is examined: Plaintiffs’ injuries occurred before Defendants failed to invite them to participate in the 2012 debates because the lack of an invitation was due to Plaintiffs’ failure to satisfy the 15% Provision, i.e., the failure to obtain sufficient popular support. Plaintiffs have not alleged a concrete injury traceable to the Commission, and thus they lack standing.
The 15% rule is entirely arbitrary, and the CPD itself is clearly a tool of the two major parties. Johnson will be on every ballot in the country, and as such should be in the debates. However, those are political considerations, not legal, and Collyer’s right that Johnson’s problem is that he’s not appealing to enough people on his own. That’s not the CPD’s fault.