Last night, on the eve of what may well be a historic Libertarian Party National Convention, America's leading third party held a debate among the very many people running for its highly coveted presidential slot. Former New Mexico governor and 2012 L.P. nominee Gary Johnson, who is considered to be the front-runner in the race, took a sharp jab during the debate from upstart contender Austin Petersen over the controversial-to-libertarians, praised-by-media-outsiders selection of former Massachusetts governor William Weld as his suggested running-mate. (Veeps are elected separately at L.P. conventions.)
Petersen, who has been making hay with his contention that "It's time for us to stop nominating failed Republicans, and start nominating successful Libertarians," drew sustained applause when he challenged Johnson over Weld's Libertarian bonafides: "In 2012, he didn't endorse Ron Paul, he didn't endorse you, he endorsed Mitt Romney. In 2016, he endorsed John Kasich. Why didn't your VP pick endorse you?"
Johnson's semi-rambling answer—he started off saying that tabbing Weld was "beyond my wildest dreams," and ended up encouraging skeptics to ask his running-mate that same question during the upcoming vice-presidential debate—was punctuated by the contention that Weld was "the original libertarian." That did not go over well:
Petersen is making the case among the record 985 delegates and 344 alternate delegates here that Gary Johnson has been running a general-election campaign instead of a party primary. Various delegates I've spoken with share that sentiment, and some of the ones who know William Weld best—particularly longtime New York L.P. hand Richard Cooper—vowed to me that they would move heaven and earth to deny Weld the V.P. slot. (For a rundown of Weld's tangled relationship with the NYLP, read this scathing account.)