Wall Street Journal: ​LP picks Johnson, Weld; holds truly contested presidential convention

From two articles in the Wall Street Journal by Byron Tau

Party hopes the two former GOP governors can mount formidable third-party challenge to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

ORLANDO, Fla.—The Libertarian National Convention on Sunday chose a pair of former Republican governors as their presidential and vice presidential nominees, putting forward the most-experienced election ticket in the party’s four-decade history.

Delegates gathered here picked former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson as their presidential standard-bearer and backed Mr. Johnson’s preference for former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld as the vice-presidential nominee.

By selecting a ticket composed of veteran Republican officeholders, Libertarians were hoping to present voters with a credible alternative to presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, both of whom are likely to enter the fall election as the most unpopular presidential candidates in modern history.

Despite more than four decades on the national scene, the Libertarians haven’t drawn more than 1% of the vote in a presidential election or elected anyone to federal office.

Still, with opinion polls showing more Americans open to a third-party candidacy in 2016 than ever before, Libertarians say they hope to draw from a well of disaffected Republican, Democratic and independent voters. The party is also likely to be the only third-party option on the ballot in all 50 states this fall.

Together, Messrs. Johnson and Weld have more than a dozen years of governing experience. Mr. Johnson was a popular two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, best known for his expansive use of the veto during his eight years in office and his support for the decriminalization of drugs. He ran for president in 2012 as a Republican before switching to the Libertarians, capturing the party’s nomination and garnering nearly 1.3 million votes in the general election—the party’s best showing yet.

Mr. Weld was elected twice in heavily Democratic Massachusetts, governing as a moderate Republican with liberal views on abortion, gay rights and gun laws.

Fifty percent of Americans right now are registering themselves as independent, meaning new voters are registering themselves as independents. Where’s that representation? Well, I happen to think it’s libertarian,” Mr. Johnson told reporters. “I happen to think that most people in this country are libertarian, they just don’t know it. Here’s the great opportunity leaving here today.”

The pair of nominees now faces an uphill battle for legitimacy and attention. No third-party presidential candidate has won the presidency in American history, and no third-party candidate has carried a state in a presidential election since 1968, when former Alabama Gov. George Wallace did so.

This year, a handful of scattered polls that included Mr. Johnson’s name shows him polling about 10% in a three-way race against Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump.

LP holds what is likely the only truly contested presidential convention this cycle….

ORLANDO, Fla. — The fevered dreams of political junkies everywhere came true on Sunday, when a presidential nominating convention went beyond the first ballot.

No, it was not the Republican National Convention — which is not scheduled until July and where some pundits had been predicting that Donald Trump would not get enough delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot. Instead, Mr. Trump has since clinched and become the presumptive nominee. Nor was it a floor fight at the Democratic National Convention between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Mrs. Clinton is well on her way to locking up enough delegates by next week for the Philadelphia convention in July.

Instead, it was the Libertarian Party, which this weekend held what is likely the only truly contested presidential convention this cycle and delivered one of the unicorns of modern politics: a second ballot at a truly contested political convention.

For many political junkies (and reporters), such an outcome would be a throwback to the 19th and early 20th centuries, where such conventions were routine. And at the Libertarian convention, they got their wish.

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the party’s 2012 nominee and a former Republican officeholder, came a handful of votes short of a majority on the first ballot, drawing 49.514% of convention delegates. Mr. Johnson ended up clinching the nomination on the second ballot, drawing 55% of the vote.

But the lack of a majority on the first ballot set off a scramble on the floor of the convention as candidates and their supporters began lobbying delegates furiously to secure the necessary votes on the second ballot. Mr. Johnson’s rivals for the nomination included activist Austin Petersen and tech entrepreneur John McAfee…

For more than a half century, the Republican and Democratic conventions have never gone to a second ballot. In recent years, they’ve become excessively stage-managed affairs devoid of any unpredictability by the delegates in order to best showcase party unity and rising stars.

This year, however, many predicted that the Republican Party’s splintered presidential field could result in the party’s first truly contested convention in decades. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz made extensive preparations for such a scenario, while Mr. Trump’s campaign was less prepared.

Earlier this month, however, it became clear to Mr. Cruz that he had no path to the nomination through a contested convention. He suspended his campaign, clearing a path for Mr. Trump.

It’s not unusual for Libertarian conventions to be more freewheeling. Unlike the Republican and Democratic Parties, the Libertarians don’t bind their delegates by the results of primaries and caucuses. All delegates are free to vote for any candidate. As a result of the free form nominating process, the party’s convention went to multiple presidential ballots in both 2008 and 2004.

The Libertarian convention has drawn an unusual amount of media attention this year, with polls showing Mr. Johnson drawing 10% of the vote in a three-way race against Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump. That would be significantly better than the 1% of the vote Mr. Johnson drew in 2012.

Read the full articles here and here.

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