Libertarian Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson and his running-mate William Weld are set to appear for a second time on a CNN town hall tonight. The event, broadcasted live, will mean an increase in significant exposure for the third party candidate.
The two appeared together late in June at their first town hall event, an opportunity that at the time seemed unlikely to occur. Many were excited at the possibility of a legitimate third party candidate, and hoped the event would help steer voters toward Libertarian waters. However, the event did not go as planned.
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Johnson ended up running through talking points, his emotional appeals to the audience members often falling flat, feeling disconnected and downright boring. Additionally, they were counting on the fact that the town hall would be prime time an thus receive more exposure, but the show was overshadowed by the Democrats taking the floor of the House of Representatives to protest the absence of legislative action on gun control.
Now, they get a second chance. This time around, Gary Johnson and William Weld will need to focus on connecting with the audience and keeping those at home from changing the channel.
Tonight is also important because Johnson and Weld need funding, support from more politicians and to clean up a serious mess.
In terms of funding, Johnson and Weld are hoping the infamous billionaire Koch brothers, David and Charles, will be watching. The Kochs, known for supporting Republican candidates, will not touch Donald Trump with a ten-foot pole. The billionaires disagree with Mr. Trump’s support for protectionism and mass deportations, among other things.
The Koch brothers are also holding back on supporting Clinton. This has given Johnson and Weld high hopes, especially considering David Koch actually ran for office as a vice presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party in 1980.
Johnson’s dream, however, may be just that. The Kochs’ chief political aide Mark Holden told CNN, “I would be surprised if we did” support the third party. Though the Libertarian Party candidates had “good ideas” their support would not boost their campaign or even make it “winnable.”
Johnson also needs to win over prominent Republican politicians.
For the past couple of weeks, Johnson has been fighting to get the support of former governor of Florida Jeb Bush and 2012 Republican presidential candidate and former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney.
Romney has made it clear several times he does not approve of Donald Trump as the official candidate for the Republicans in the presidential election. The former candidate even chose not to attend the Republican National Convention two weeks ago out of principle. Furthermore, Romney has stated several times he would consider the Johnson-Weld team, more so because of Weld than Johnson himself.
Romney, being a devout Mormon, disapproves of Johnson’s attitude toward the legalization of marijuana, among other things. Romney, however, is a fan of Weld’s.
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Johnson has said the support from Romney is very likely, and, though it may have been at some point, it may not be so much anymore. And this is what leads us to our third and final point for what Johnson should focus on tonight: cleaning up a serious mess — the main reason why Romney may never support this political venture after all.
During the week of the Democratic National Convention, Johnson was interviewed by the Washington Examiner regarding legislation concerning office-place discrimination of the LGBT community. But it was not his opinion on gay rights and discrimination that made the story blow up, but one of the things he said in order to support his point:
“Under the guise of religious freedom, anybody can do anything. Back to Mormonism, why shouldn’t somebody be able to shoot somebody else because their freedom of religion says that God has spoken to them?” he said. “I just see religious freedom as a category, as just being a black hole.”
Regardless of the context, these words did not go well for Johnson’s campaign which relies heavily on the Mormon, religious and conservative state of Utah. Johnson called his statements “an admittedly very imprecise reference to the violence that accompanied the Mormon’s early history in the 1800s.”
Johnson has always been a very clean candidate, never really dragging anyone’s name through the mud, never really having his name tied to much controversy. Even though some supporters of his may see this as a good thing, is it really?
Johnson’s “clean” candidacy is a nice contrast to Trump’s and Hillary’s, but it does not make for good publicity. Could he have done this on purpose? Johnson has been having a really hard time obtaining enough publicity to get his polls up to 15 percent in order to make it to this fall’s general election debate.
Regardless of whether this statement was purposefully planted as a sad way of getting attention or not, could it have helped him? Will this town hall be the definitive one that could help the Johnson-Weld campaign rise to the spotlight and give the United States another legitimate candidate? Or does it have to choose between a criminal and a fascist reality-tv personality?
Many believe they are “just taking votes away from Trump or Hillary,” but the reality of the situation is that perhaps a third alternative is needed. It could set an example for elections to come.