Hours after announcing Friday that Massachusetts’ former Republican Gov. William Weld would be his vice presidential choice, likely Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson told Newsmax that what he considered our “strongest ticket ever” would break into double digits in a fall contest with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
The former New Mexico governor, Johnson, spoke to us shortly after a Fox News poll of a three-way race including him, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, showed him drawing 10 percent among likely voters.
If those numbers were to hold up, his party could pull 10 times the best showing of any Libertarian candidate since the party began fielding nominees for president in 1972.
Along with what he considers the advantage of Weld on his ticket, Johnson feels the Libertarians will at least reach double digits in its vote total this fall because of presumptive nominees Clinton and Trump.
But the polling data suggests the Libertarians may help Trump more than hurt him.
Johnson says he will be targeting both Clinton and Trump.
"She'll do more to make government grow and isn't going to change anything," he said. "At the end of the day, taxes will go up."
He noted that Trump also is for big government and "all over the board on many issues. But if you take him at his word, his presidency means more government."
As an example of what he means, Johnson pointed to the issue of immigration and Trump's signature issue of building a wall along the southern border with Mexico.
"He says he wants to build a wall and then deport 11 million people here illegally," said the Libertarian, "That's big government right there. These are people who take jobs Americans don't want and whose only major barrier is the language, which they can overcome."
He went on to cite his disagreements with Trump's calls for requiring Apple to manufacture products in the U.S., the revival of waterboarding to interrogate prisoners in the war on terror, and killing families of suspected terrorists.
As for Trump's most recent controversial statement that he would talk to North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un, Johnson said: "I'm open to anything, but I don't see the wisdom in that. [Kim] seems to be nuts. But I do agree that North Korea is the biggest threat in the world today because one of these days, one of their ICBMs is going to work."
With both Trump and Clinton holding high unfavorables among voters, some see a third party opportunity. The Libertarians will likely have ballot access in all or almost all 50 states.
With Libertarians meeting in Orlando for their national convention May 27-28, Johnson is considered a shoo-in for another nomination for president and Weld is almost sure to be nominated for vice president.
Recalling how he and Weld were governors together in the 1990s, Johnson said, "Bill was always the smartest guy in the room" and how he admired that the Bay State governor was "fiscally conservative and socially liberal — which is where I am — and had won twice in a heavily Democratic state."
"And when President Clinton appointed Bill to be ambassador to Mexico, [the late North Carolina Republican Sen.] Jesse Helms blocked his nomination in part because he was pro-gay rights, in favor of a woman’s right to choose [abortion], and for legalization of marijuana," he told us, "These are all positions I have always held."
According to Johnson, the idea of a "Johnson-Weld" ticket "originated with me." After Weld, who now practices law in New York, replied to an email from the Johnson staff on May 10, the two spoke by phone.
Along with Weld's wife, Leslie, and Johnson's longtime campaign adviser Ron Nielson, the two former governors held a private meeting at Harrah’s Hotel in Las Vegas on May 14 and a subsequent dinner at the nearby Treasure Island restaurant.
Will he seek out Mitt Romney, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, and others pursuing a new right-of-center third party candidacy as the alternative to Trump?
"No," Johnson shot back.
Now that such hoped-for third party candidates such as retired Gen. James Mattis have said no to Kristol and Company, Johnson said, "They now can call us anytime they want. We'd be glad to meet with them."
"And I estimate it will take about $50 million for us to play in the game," he added. "That's a lot. But with two of the most polarizing figures in U.S. politics as the likely major party nominees, the Libertarian Party has more opportunities than ever before."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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