Libertarian Party presidential hopeful Gary Johnson’s vice presidential pick my be in trouble. Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld was booed at the party convention in Orlando, calling into question whether the former blue state Republican governor can overcome the perception that he is “Republican-Lite.”
Hard core Libertarian party activists responded negatively to many of Weld’s statements while Weld himself apparently knows little of the Libertarian Party agenda.
Johnson seems to sense his dream ticket could be in trouble. The former two-term governor of New Mexico was booed at a convention forum on Thursday for calling Weld “the original libertarian.”
“A big hurdle for us is surviving this weekend and being the nominees,” Johnson told POLITICO in an interview on Friday. “Anything is possible. Bill is the first one that recognizes that.”
Asked if he his reception was worrisome, Weld told POLITICO, “I wouldn’t use the word worrisome, but I would say the convention is highly unpredictable. And having two former Republican governors who were successful in blue states — who knows — that could turn out to be a negative in the minds of delegates. Stranger things have happened.”
While Johnson and Weld are trying to run as a ticket — they are handing out joint buttons and paraphernalia — the Libertarian Party convention actually picks their presidential and vice-presidential nominees separately. Delegates could select Johnson and then reject Weld.
And Weld did little to help himself at a Friday night vice-presidential debate in which he got a chilly reception from the hardcore audience of Libertarian true-believers. Asked who did more damage to America — President Obama or President George W. Bush — Weld gave a classic politician answer. “I’d rate it a tie,” he said. He used the word “miasma” in his closing statement.
At one point, Weld said he would stay in the United Nations — an idea anathema to many in the crowd — and said that when people think of Libertarians they often think of “unattractive people” in their neighborhoods.
Weld advocated cutting taxes. One of his opponents yelled, “Taxation is theft!”
“He just didn’t make the case,” Will Tyler White, a delegate from Michigan, said of Weld.
“He showed that he was Republican-lite,” complained Jim Fulner, another Michigan delegate. “He didn’t mention a single Libertarian idea.”
A Texas delegate named Gary Johnson (no relation to the candidate), who sported a Johnson-Weld button, was concerned. “He just doesn’t seem to know the right thing to say in a Libertarian convention,” Johnson said.
“I realize the idea is he bring credibility on the national stage but it’s disappointing because he lacks the Libertarian pedigree,” Richard Schwarz, a delegate from Pennsylvania, said after the debate. “He was uninspiring and kind of dry … I don’t think he’s going to win.”
Weld’s usefulness as a running mate is based more on practical politics than ideological fervor. He is the former attorney for casino mogul Steve Wynn, who might help fund Johnson’s run. But such an appeal by Johnson to the delegates is not likely to convince them to support Weld.
Johnson, the party nominee in 2012, does not appear to be in any trouble, given his wide name recognition and superior organization. He will most likely receive the endorsement of the convention and be nominated to run again.
But given the temper of the Libertarian activists who are delegates, it appears he will have a running mate not of his choosing at his side.