Libertarians seemed skeptical of their party’s frontrunner Gary Johnson at the Libertarian Party National Convention in Orlando, Florida this weekend, after he picked former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld as his running mate last week. Weld was derided by attendees as “Republican-lite” and not a true Libertarian, which could prove problematic for Johnson considering that at LP conventions, the presidential and vice presidential nominees are chosen separately.
Things took a turn for the worse, however, when Johnson tried to defend his choice after rival Austin Petersen criticized him over it.
“It’s time for us to stop nominating failed Republicans, and start nominating successful Libertarians,” Petersen said. “In 2012, he didn't endorse Ron Paul, he didn't endorse you, he endorsed Mitt Romney. In 2016, he endorsed John Kasich. Why didn't your VP pick endorse you?"
Johnson admitted at a convention forum that choosing Weld was “beyond my wildest dreams” but tried to win over critics nonetheless, even saying that Weld was “the original Libertarian.” As you can imagine, this did not sit well with those in attendance, who promptly booed that response.
Weld himself also didn’t do much to win over the Libertarians in attendance, particularly at Friday night’s debate during which he seemed to stumble through responses.
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,” delegate Will Tyler White said about Weld, reports Politico.
Weld said he wasn’t worried about the cool reception he’s received thus far, but did tell Politico “the convention is highly unpredictable.”
“[H]aving 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,” he said.
Most expect Johnson to walk away from the convention the party’s presidential nominee, but whether Weld will be chosen as VP remains to be seen.