Weld: We’re in it to win
In a shift, Libertarian VP hopeful says he sees a “path” to victory
BILL WELD, WHO seemed to sign on as the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential candidate less than three months ago as a bit of a lark, now says the ticket is in it to win.
That’s the latest take from the former Massachusetts governor, offered to a large gaggle of reporters waiting for him on Monday afternoon in the lobby of the John W. McCormack state office building, where he arrived accompanied by a few of backers to deliver a fresh batch of nominating signatures to Secretary of State William Galvin’s office.
In May, Weld joined the Libertarian effort, teaming up with Gary Johnson of New Mexico, another one-time Republican governor who is heading the ticket.
“I see the race a little differently than I might have back at the convention in Orlando,” he said of the party’s May 29 nominating session in Florida. “The ice is cracking a little bit. We’ve seen it start to crack in Congress just this week. I’ve spoken with a few Republican members of Congress who are interested in reassessing their endorsements in the fall.”
Everything hinges, however, on Johnson reaching 15 percent in national polls, the threshold established by the national presidential debate commission for candidates to be part of the presidential and vice presidential debates this fall.
“The scenario now is, qualify for the debates, get admitted to the debates by the end of August, first week in September,” he said. “That step alone would probably carry us past 15 percent, closer to 20 percent. And work on getting another 5 percent, which I think is a modest goal in the month of September. That would mean entering the month of October with 25 percent in the polls. And you show me a three-party race with one at 25 who two-and-a-half months earlier was at 5, and two at 35 who two-and-a-half months earlier were at 45, and I’ll tell you who’s going to win that race: It’s the ticket with the 25.”
Weld said he just returned from a four-day campaign swing with Johnson out West. He said the rallies they held went well, and he said there is great chemistry between the duo. He offered no tales of hunting together, or playing squash or poker, all known favored pastimes of the former governor. But Weld’s interests range wider than that.
“We played backgammon on the plane. We played pool when we got to the holding situation for the rallies. So you know at least I was happy,” he said. “The truth is that Gary also enjoys to kick back and play those games as well.”
Weld parried questions about the fact that his one-time protégé, Gov. Charlie Baker, is not backing the Libertarian ticket, despite the fact that Baker has said he will not vote for his party’s nominee, Donald Trump, or Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“I’m not pitching Charlie because I think he’s very smart to stay out of the national campaign,” said Weld. “As soon as he sticks a finger in it, everyone is going to come to him every morning and say, ‘Whoa, you’re a gladiator in this contest now. What do you think about this subissue?’ And he wouldn’t have time to govern here. I think he’s doing just the right thing for himself.”
For his part, Baker continued to wave off talk of getting behind the Johnson-Weld ticket, emphasizing one Libertarian position that is a clear deal breaker for him.
The Real Clear Politics average of recent national polls has the Johnson-Weld ticket at 8.3 percent, so they are still only a little more than half way to the 15 percent that they need to earn a spot in the national debates.
Weld nevertheless sought to turn the tables when he was asked about comments Galvin made at the Democratic National Convention that it’s a waste of a vote to support third-party candidates.
“Well, everybody’s entitled to their view, and I have great respect for the secretary, who I’ve known for a long time,” he said. “My analysis, however, as I was saying before, is that we have a path to run right up the middle and win the whole thing here. In fact, that’s what I think is going to happen. But Libertarians never tell other people what to do. So if anyone in the Commonwealth wants to waste their vote by casting it for Trump or Clinton, it’s OK with me.”
Weld’s team said he brought 3,000 new signatures to Galvin’s office, which with 9,200 previously submitted, should put him and Johnson over the 10,000-signature threshold to get on the state ballot once they are verified.
The press scrum was a bit of a throwback to the old days, when Weld seemed to relish a good back-and-forth with reporters, and rarely seemed flustered by a question. It’s been nearly 20 years since he left office. Now 71, the former governor has bit of hangdog look with sleepy eyes, but he seemed as sharp as ever.He also still seemed to come at politics in a way that was at once sincere and impish. When he laid out the scenario that puts him and Johnson in the White House, it was almost possible to be convinced that he believes it.