Well, that whole Carl Bernstein rumor about Libertarian vice presidential nominee William Weld dropping out of the race to back Hillary Clinton didn't seem to get very far. Now running mate Gary Johnson has taken a nail gun to the thing: In a Facebook Live interview with USA Today Opinion Editor Bill Sternberg, Johnson was asked whether Bernstein's speculation was true. His answer was blunt: "That is bullshit."
While that moment (complete with Sternberg's semi-shocked response of "We are on Facebook Live") will probably get the most attention, it came at the end of a whole semi-testy section of Sternberg trying to buttonhole Johnson about being a "spoiler." The exchange, which I have transcribed below, I think demonstrates the magnetic power of two-party/major-media assumptions about who votes belong to. Check it out:
USA Today: So some of the recent polls show you attracting a lot of Millennial support, and taking away votes from Hillary Clinton. Are you comfortable with, if we get to late October, and you're still in the sing—
Johnson: I'm-I'm com—I'm, yeah—
USA Today: —and it's still in the single digits, are, do you have a preference between Clinton and Trump?
Johnson: No, absolutely not. I'm offering a first choice for a lot of people. And if what you're inferring, Bill, is that I should drop out and allow people to have their second choice? Ah, no, I would not be comfortable with…I would not be comfortable having people to have to go to their second choice.
USA Today: Now some people are comparing you with Ralph Nader, who in 2000, they say, drew enough support from Al Gore to elect George W. Bush—
Johnson: Like I say, like I say, I just, I reject that—
USA Today: —what do you say about the spoiler label?
Johnson: —I reject that, reject it, reject it totally. I am giving people a first choice. I'm believing that everybody that is voting for me is voting for me on the basis of first choice. The fact that I have proven myself to be fiscally conservative over the top, socially inclusive over the top; stop with the bombs, stop with the support of regime change that has resulted in the mess that we have in this world. Support among active military personnel—I am the number-one choice among active military personnel. And then support for free trade, something that neither Clinton or Trump are supporting.
USA Today: There have been reports that your running mate, former governor Weld, is less sanguine about the prospect of a Trump presidency than you are, and would if push came to shove at the end of the campaign possibly endorse Secretary Clinton. Is that true?
Johnson: That is bullshit.
USA Today: (pause) We are on Facebook Live.
Link via the Twitter feed of Eric Sturrock, which is a must-read for people following the Johnson campaign.
Some related materials:
* "'Trump Bad' Is Not a Good Enough Argument to Discourage Third-Party Votes, Democrats," by Scott Shackford
* "No, Ralph Nader Did Not Hand the 2000 Presidential Election to George W. Bush," by Anthony L. Fisher