Nice guys finish third: Gary Johnson's awkward night

Then came the most excruciating passage of the night:

CUOMO: All right. Governor Johnson, let’s do some word association here. I’ll say the name, you hit me with the first thing that comes to mind. Remember, we’ve got an audience here and a lot of people watching out there, as well. President Barack Obama?


JOHNSON: Good guy.

CUOMO: One. Governor Weld?

WELD: Barack Obama? I think he’s been statesman-like the last couple of years. He had a disappointing first term, and I think he’s picked up his game the last couple of years. It’s gone better for him.

CUOMO: Hillary Clinton?

JOHNSON: Hillary Clinton, a wonderful public servant, I guess I would say that.

WELD: Old friend. Nice kid. Knew her in her 20s. We shared an office in the Nixon impeachment, real bond, lifelong. Seriously. Not kidding.

You are less than 10 minutes into the most important introduction to voters of this campaign, one in which differentiating yourself from the existing big-party competition is kind of the point, and you can’t do any better than this?

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