Las Vegas—Moments before delegates began casting their ballots to determine the Libertarian Party presidential nominee, Gary Johnson told the crowd at the Red Rocks Resort in Las Vegas that he'd rather be tortured to death than vote for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.
It was one of several lines that brought the crowd to its feet at this year's Libertarian Party Convention. Based on what I've seen from Johnson in the last year, it was the best speech he's ever given: Punchy, firm, loud, politically on point, and littered with applause lines.
It was also improvised.
"You must not know much about Gary," his spokesman told me when I asked for a transcript of the speech, which brought the packed Red Rocks ballroom to its feet half a dozen times. "That was all Gary. All he had up there were a few notes."
Content-wise, Johnson's speech was nothing new. He's talked about winding down the war in Afghanistan, ending the war on drugs, fiscal responsibility, tax reform, GLBT rights, and gun rights at speeches across the country for months. But today's delivery showed Johnson has finally learned how to package those ideas into sound bites.
Some of the punchiest lines:
"Imagine a libertarian president challenging Congress to bring about marriage equality."
"Imagine a libertarian president ending impediments to free markets."
"Imagine a libertarian president challenging Congress to repeal the PATRIOT Act."
"Imagine a libertarian president challenging Congress for meaningful immigration reform."
"The libertarian candidate for president is the only candidate talking about gun rights and gay rights in the same sentence."
"The libertarian candidate for president is the only candidate that's going to be talking about slashing welfare spending and warfare spending in the same sentence."
"Make no bones about it: The goal here is to win the election."
"Somewhere between 2000 and 2008, Bob Barr fell out of bed, hit his head, and became a libertarian. I'm glad it happened."
"This is not 2008. I don't have any of that baggage hanging in back of me."
And the best line of the speech:
"I was on NPR's All Things Considered yesterday. The question was, 'You're on the torture rack, they're going to kill you, who are you going to vote for? Mitt Romney, or Barack Obama? I said, 'Look, I've climbed Mount Everest. I know how to do what it takes. Take this to the bank: I would rather die.'"