The return of Big Red

It’s an apt metaphor that the Libertarian Party is holding its convention next weekend in Orlando, Florida, the home of Disneyworld, because anyone who thinks the nominees for president and vice president have a snowball’s chance in the Bahamas of winning or even impacting the race is definitely living in a fantasy world.

And that’s what makes the decision by former governor William Weld to seek the party’s nomination for veep a head-scratcher. What, many are asking, is the 70-year-old lawyer’s endgame?

“I would say it’s nuts, but then again it’s Bill,” one longtime Weld acquaintance told the Boston Globe anonymously.

Weld will reportedly announce his decision in New York today to seek the nomination after being courted by former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, the favorite among 18 candidates to be the party’s presidential nominee.

Weld, well-known in the Northeast but an enigma elsewhere – actually, pretty much an enigma around these parts as well – is facing an uphill battle for the second spot after his late hat-tossing. There are eight other VP candidates listed on the Libertarian Party website and Big Red’s picture is not among them.

While Johnson and Weld are both former two-term Republican governors – save for the fact Weld failed to complete his second term – they are not the alternative that dismayed conservatives are seeking to derail Donald Trump. They are fiscal conservatives of the libertarian strain but when it comes to social issues, they tend to lean more progressive.

Johnson and Weld support abortion rights, a nonstarter for most right-leaning voters, and Johnson supports marijuana decriminalization. The party platform calls for a less aggressive military stance on the world stage, supporting cuts in the defense budget. Good luck getting mainstream Republicans to vote for that.

Republicans aghast at the thought of a Trump or Hillary Clinton presidency have sought alternatives, not so much for the idea of winning as much as to thwart either Trump or Clinton from getting enough electoral votes and throwing the election into the GOP-controlled House, where presumably a more palatable result will occur.

But it’s hard to see the Libertarian ticket being the crash vehicle. While both former governors were popular in their home state, they’ve found little success outside their one elected role.  Johnson ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 but, after getting frozen out of the debates, bolted the party and went Libertarian. His third-party run garnered less than 1 percent of the vote.

Weld has a history of falling short despite his favorability among voters. Before winning the corner office in 1990, he unsuccessfully ran for attorney general and then, in his second term, challenged then-Sen. John Kerry, and got swamped for his efforts. About 10 years ago, he ran for governor of New York, where he had moved after leaving office here, but failed to garner the Republican nomination, though he was endorsed by the Libertarians.

Johnson could draw some support from the Republican ticket in the Southwest but that could easily be blunted by Trump’s own vice president pick. Some are citing New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez as a potential running mate for Trump, which would blunt much of the headway Johnson would make down that way.

Weld also carries a lingering aftertaste among conservative Republicans who recall his nomination by Bill Clinton to become ambassador to Mexico. That was derailed by the late senator Jesse Helms, who painted Weld as a liberal bordering on socialist and that patina has never faded for conservatives. He also carries the baggage of writing campaign donation checks to Hillary Clinton, his former colleague on the Watergate committee staff when they were both young lawyers in 1974, and endorsing Barack Obama over John McCain in 2008.

For the ticket, Weld’s best offering is his strength in the Northeast, but that’s mainly from the more centrist voters in either party. He may best chip away votes from Clinton. But with the support she has in Massachusetts and New York, the odds of swinging the electoral college are reed thin.

The peripatetic Weld gets easily bored when stationary for too long so it’s possible this is just another interesting offering to draw his attention. But if he and Johnson somehow earn the chance to be in the debates, it will make for interesting viewing for voters who have never experienced Weld’s quirky persona.

At the least, Big Red is going to Disneyworld.

JACK SULLIVAN

 

BEACON HILL

The Legislature approved by a wide margin a measure advancing a constitutional amendment to add an income surtax of 4 percent  on households earning more than $1 million. (CommonWealth) A Herald editorial suggests passage of the tax would represent the camel’s nose under the tax-raising tent, with more tax increases to follow. Lowell-area lawmakers generally opposed the millionaire’s tax. (The Sun)

The state Senate received subpoenas for information in the federal probe of Sen. Brian Joyce. (Boston Globe)

State Rep. Colleen Garry is trying — without much success so far — to get her colleagues to take up legislation that would limit state employees’ ability to cash-in unused vacation and sick time when they leave state government. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A top campaign adviser to Marty Walsh’s successful 2013 run for mayor had an ownership interest in the failed IndyCar race event that Walsh strongly backed. (Boston Herald)

A former Fairhaven police officer who was fired after he allegedly admitted to being drunk on the job has filed suit against the town for discrimination, saying his alcoholism is a disability that required treatment, not termination. (Standard-Times)

Tensions are mounting on the quasi-public board tasked with overseeing the Southfield mixed-use development at the former naval air base in South Weymouth as Rockland officials say Weymouth is trying to take control of the tri-town project. (Patriot Ledger)

Arts leaders say a Boston report on boosting arts and culture in the city is long on gauzy platitudes but short on specifics of where funding will come from to support expanded offerings. (Boston Globe)

A New Bedford livery service owner is hiring panhandlers as walking advertisers to wear sandwich board signs on street corners instead of begging for money, a plan officials are hailing as a possible solution to the panhandling problem in the Whaling City. (Standard-Times)

Middleboro officials want to know what the Mashpee Wampanoag intend to do with the 300 acres the tribe recently purchased in town where they had once planned a casino before settling on the Taunton site. (The Enterprise)

CASINOS

Jim Murren, the chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts, calls the company’s Springfield project “a solid double or triple.” (Masslive)

ELECTIONS

Robert Kagen of the Brookings Institution says Donald Trump’s rise shows how a “mobocracy” can bring facism to America. (Washington Post)

Deep-pocketed Massachusetts Republican donors are largely holding back from jumping on the Donald Trump train. (Boston Globe)

Aides to Sen. Bernie Sanders say his focus is on winning the California primary and they don’t care if the battle inflicts damage on Hillary Clinton. (New York Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Federal Reserve says it may be “appropriate” to hike interest rates next month if the economy stays on course. (U.S. News & World Report)

EDUCATION

A Globe editorial slams Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson for encouraging Tuesday’s student walkout and then showboating at a City Hall hearing that was short on substantive ideas to fix the schools’ budget woes and long on “simplistic sloganeering.” Joan Vennochi says Mayor Marty Walsh needs to stop being reactive and make the case for his vision for a strong school system, including selling the public on the tough choices that have to made to accomplish that. (Boston Globe)

A Pioneer Institute report faults the University of Massachusetts for upping its enrollment of higher paying out-of-state students — at the expense, the think tank says, of the Massachusetts students who should be the university’s main concern. (Boston Globe)

The Lowell School Committee freezes the number of out-of-district students it will accept as it tries to come up with a plan for students of staff who live outside Lowell. (The Sun)

Mark Culliton of College Bound Dorchester and Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce CEO James Rooney say we need to invest in “off-track” young people who can, with the right support, go from the “corner to the college classroom” while also helping the economy by addressing the shortage of middle-skills workers in the state. (CommonWealth)

Most people will quickly forget what was said at commencement speeches because most of them are very forgettable, says an MIT brain scientist. (WGBH)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A Lowell opioid clinic is forced to turn away people seeking treatment because of insufficient staff. (The Sun) Some with opioid addictions say they prefer taking Suboxone in the form of under-the-skin implants. (WBUR)

Partners HealthCare prepares to unveil its $180 million expansion of Salem Hospital, where it is consolidating services once offered at Union Hospital in Lynn. (Salem News)

TRANSPORTATION

House Majority Leader Ron Mariano says the MBTA is a “disgrace,” but apparently he thinks some progress is being made in righting the transit authority. (Wicked Local)

Springfield’s proposed ordinance for regulating ride-sharing companies such as Uber was written by an attorney for the taxi industry, which is reeling from ride-sharing competition. (Masslive)

Milton officials have asked members of the state’s congressional delegation to seek a federal study to investigate the health effects of planes flying overhead as residents continue to complain about the flight paths from Logan. (Patriot Ledger)

Middleboro selectmen are urging residents to contact state representatives after learning the Department of Transportation has dropped reconstruction of the rotary at Routes 44 and 18 from the state’s priority list. (The Enterprise)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Rescuers free a humpback whale ensnared in fishing line off the coast of Gloucester. (Eagle-Tribune)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Prosecutors say a man was high on medical marijuana when he slammed into the car of a State Trooper on the Massachusetts Turnpike, killing the officer. (Boston Herald)

MEDIA

Jessica Heslam wonders whether the graphic coverage by national TV programs of the state’s opioid crisis helps bring needed attention to the issue or just exploits those in the grip of deadly addiction. (Boston Herald)