Former GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz urged Republican National Convention goers to “vote their conscience” instead of blindly supporting Donald Trump, a statement Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson took as an endorsement for his candidacy.
Rather than endorse Trump, Cruz urged voters to non-specifically follow their conscience:
“Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”
Johnson took these comments, both because of their content and because of their omission of the Republican nominee, to mean an endorsement of the Libertarian Party ticket:
“He did say to vote for Gary Johnson, didn’t he? And that was ‘vote your conscience.’ I certainly would uphold the Constitution.”
From Cruz and Kasich, the #NeverTrump baton passes to Johnson
As Jeb Bush and Rand Paul dropped out of the Republican presidential race early, the establishment and liberty votes shifted to John Kasich and Ted Cruz, respectively, before finally all collecting around Cruz in one last desperate, and ultimately failed, attempt to stop Donald Trump. Now, the mantle of the #NeverTrump torchbearer passes to Gary Johnson. Die-hard Republican establishment faithfuls Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney and have publicly mused about the possibility of supporting the Johnson/Weld ticket (Bush by indicated he would never vote for Clinton or Trump while mentioning the Libertarian candidacy, Romney musing over the possibility of endorsing Johnson while indicating his support for his running mate).
Finally, add one last wildcard to the mix of Gary Johnson’s surprising cheerleaders: active duty military. A new poll of members currently serving across all branches of the US military indicates a strong preference for Johnson over Clinton, and even places him above Donald “I love veterans” Trump. As the election wears on, this upset in the prevailing logic is sure to make for some interesting campaigning.
The Libertarian Party’s big venture to court the mainstream
In 2012, Johnson courted voters faced with the dim prospect of either another term for President Obama or holding their nose and voting for big-government flip-flopper Mitt Romney, encouraging them to “be Libertarian with me this one time.” Unfortunately, the vast majority of voters did not take him up on his generous offer, gaining him a paltry 1% of the national vote. This time around, however, Johnson appears poised to perform much better, polling as high as 13%, merely two points away from the minimum threshold to be included in the national debates beside Clinton and Trump. Johnson remained adamant about choosing William Weld as his running mate, presumably because of the fundraising network and centrist and establishment connections he brings to the table.