Saturday, August 27, 2016

Johnson, PACs fight to get him into debates

Libertarians hope rallies and ads can nudge them into the presidential debates - The Washington Post - David Weigel:

August 27, 2016 - "Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson ... a two-term governor of New Mexico, has avoided the fringe label that often sticks to third-party candidates. Since announcing former Massachusetts governor William Weld as his running mate, Johnson has risen in polls to the high single digits — and to the mid-teens in some swing states. His rallies draw hundreds of voters, bigger than anything he saw during his 2012 bid. He talks about 'spoiling the party,' and voters cheer.

""Despite that, Johnson is struggling to grab the prize he has eyed all year: To be invited to the televised presidential debates. He needs to close in on 15 percent in an average of polls, and he’s doing what he can. Two super PACs are trying to boost him in. It’s not clear that they can pull it off....

"The Commission on Presidential Debates, which has controlled the process since 1988, has held fast to its 15 percent threshold. A Johnson-backed lawsuit against that threshold was thrown out this month, though, and the voters filing into Johnson-Weld rallies this week were acutely aware that their man might be kept offstage....

"Two libertarian efforts are underway to boost Johnson past the debate commission’s 15-percent hurdle. Purple PAC, steered by former Cato Institute president Ed Crane, began a $1 million ad buy this week, with cable spots casting Johnson as an 'honorable choice' who favors tolerance and free markets.... Alternative PAC, launched by former FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe, is spending $50,000 to kick-start a Web campaign aimed at millennials....

"As Purple PAC’s Crane noted, the two standard-bearers for libertarianism have become some of the least ideological candidates in America.... That’s led to steady criticism from more traditional libertarians, who pounce on every Johnson or Weld sop to the center as a gaffe. Weld, who signed a gun-control bill as governor, struggled to win the Libertarian vice-presidential nomination.... After Johnson refused to rule out a tax on carbon — only if it was revenue-neutral and it replaced income taxes — he was criticized by libertarians on social media.

“'I’m still on the fence about whether I’m going to cast a write-in vote for None of the Above or myself,' said Darryl Perry, a New Hampshire voter who ran against Johnson for the Libertarian presidential nomination. 'I know a few [people] who have said, "Well, he’s the lesser of the evils." The lesser evil is still evil in my eyes.'

"But the dazzling possibility of the debate invite — something no Libertarian candidate has ever achieved — has kept most fellow travelers on board.... At one rally, in Concord, close to 300 people stood in a steady and meteorology-defying rain to hear Weld and Johnson speak about the six-lane highway between the parties.

"'Standing in the rain,' Johnson said with disbelief. 'You honor us. You really do.'"

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