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Former Republican governors of New Mexico and Massachusetts will lead party into the fall
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
ORLANDO (CFP) — Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson has won the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination, as the party hopes to ride the deep unpopularity of the Republican and Democratic nominees to a breakthrough result in the fall.
“I will work as hard as I can to represent everybody in this room,” Johnson told convention delegates after they made their selection May 29 in Orlando. “I think that millions of people are going to be trying to understand what it means to be a Libertarian.”
The delegates also grudgingly went along with Johnson’s request to nominate former Massachusetts Governor William Weld as his running mate, after Johnson made two separate pleas to delegates who were skeptical of Weld’s Libertarian bona fides.
“I’m asking you to give me the tools needed to actually win,” Johnson. “If it’s Bill Weld, there’s actually an opportunity to take the White House.”
Weld’s nomination was only secured with some difficulty after three of the defeated presidential candidates took the microphone to endorse other candidates. Some delegates booed and shouted at Weld.
Weld, who joined the party just two weeks before the convention, told delegates “it’s been a learning experience.”
“I think every day I become a better Libertarian,” he said. “I pledge to you that I will stay with the Libertarian Party for life.”
After two ballots, Weld managed to win a bare majority, ahead of Larry Shape, a New York City businessman.
It also took Johnson two ballots to secure the nomination, with 55 percent of the vote. He narrowly missed winning an outright majority on the first ballot, with 49 percent of the vote.
Trailing behind Johnson were Austin Petersen, a magazine publisher and former Fox Business Channel producer, and John McAfee, founder of the anti-computer virus company that bears his name.
Johnson, 63, served as governor of New Mexico as a Republican from 1995 to 2003. He was the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 2012, winning just 1 percent of the vote.
But given the historically low approval ratings of both Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, Johnson and the Libertarians are hoping to do much better this time around, particularly if Johnson can get into the presidential debates.
With Weld on on the ticket, “at a minimum, I think we’re in the presidential debates,” Johnson said.
In order to get into the debates, a candidate must be on the ballot in enough states to win an Electoral College majority and must be polling at least 15 percent in national polls.
The Libertarian Party expects to be on the ballot in all 50 states, meeting the first criterion. National polls that have included Johnson have put his support at about 10 percent, below the necessary threshold.
The Libertarian and Green parties have joined in a lawsuit to force the Commission on Presidential Debates to let their candidates into the fall debates.