Like teenagers on New Year's Eve, libertarians are conscious enough about their shaky social status that they tend to become over-invested in individual moments.
Watching your long-marginalized political bloc step out blinkingly into the national spotlight, as former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson and former Massachusetts governor William Weld did Wednesday night at CNN's Libertarian Town Hall, can be fraught with expectation and not a small amount of dread.
Johnson's halting performance last night had many party faithful lunging for the panic button, almost certainly prematurely given this year's unprecedented opportunity for and interest in the country's leading third party.
But his often defensive posture in the face of challenging questions stems from an intra-Libertarian divide that the ticket is going to have to address more forthrightly if it wants to meet the 15 percent polling threshold to get into this fall's presidential debates.
Previous Reason coverage of the Johnson/Weld town hall:
* "Nice Guys Finish Third: Gary Johnson's Awkward Night," by Matt Welch
* "Drug War Ringer Pushes Johnson to Explain Reality of Prohibition," by Scott Shackford
* "What Gary Johnson Should Have Said About Heroin," by Jacob Sullum
* "Gary Johnson: The Presidential Candidate for Non-Crazy Americans," by Robby Soave
* "As Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson Was an Early Advocate for School Choice," by Tyler Koteskey
* And "CNN's Libertarian Town Hall in 3 Minutes," by Zach Weissmueller & Justin Monticello: