Gary Johnson

The Uphill Fight of Republicans for Johnson/Weld

On CNN, Liz Mair of new pro-Libertarian group for Republicans hits conservative doubts on Johnson/Weld's stances on abortion, discrimination based on religious beliefs, and even their fiscal record. She calls the Libertarian Party's standardbearer a "small-l libertarian."


Matt Welch noted this morning the launch of a new group "Republicans for Johnson/Weld." He also reported the curious and doubtless frustrating to the campaign fact that self-styled conservatives are far more likely in a CNN/ORC poll to support Hillary Clinton (21-8) over the Libertarian ticket for president.

This morning, Liz Mair appeared on a panel on CNN speaking for that group, in advance of tonight's second CNN "town hall" featuring Gary Johnson and William Weld. The appearance, and the reactions of fellow panelists, were an interesting cross section of the fight the campaign faces winning Republican or conservative votes.

Interestingly, Mair wanted to emphasis how not extremely libertarian the team she supported was, and in a terrible irony used the very phrase that movement libertarians who are not affiliated with the Libertarian Party have in the past used to distinguish themselves to refer to Johnson himself.

He's not "hardcore," he's a "small-l libertarian," she said, even though he is in fact the presidential standardbearer of "big-L Libertarians" in the traditional movement usage: actual members of the Libertarian Party.

Mair did give a great basic TV soundbite pitch for Johnson/Weld though, pointing out they are the only real choice for small and affordable government, that they had no ethical issues haunting them, and had both good government executive and, in Johnson, successful business experience.

KellyAnne Conway, Trump representative, poo-poohed, without details, their actual fiscal conservative cred. (Deeper dives from earlier reporting on both Johnson and Weld's fiscal record.) Mair defended them by referring to their relatively high grades as governors from the Cato Institute in their day, and noting they faced Democratic legislatures and obviously as governors they had merely influence and not ultimate power over their states' fiscal realities.

Matt Lewis, a conservative commentator, gave a longer and more educated bill of attacks on Johnson/Weld from the right. He criticized them for their pro-abortion beliefs and Johnson's lack of belief in many cases in religious liberty as a proper legal excuse for certain forms of discrimination. From what I've seen in the world of internet chatter, the latter is definitely the point on which people of alleged small-government principles dying for a reason to stick with Trump are making their stand.

Errol Louis, also on the panel, reminded viewers of the truth, that Johnson/Weld might well be drawing more support that would otherwise be Clinton than from Trump. Framing the Libertarian campaign, then, as mostly a fight for disgruntled Republicans might be too narrow a way to look at it. From how Johnson and Weld mostly sell themselves, it seems they agree that the Democratic wing is as if not more rich territory for them than GOP nevertrumpers.