BOSTON — Vice presidential candidate Bill Weld, who is running as a Libertarian rather than under his more familiar GOP flag, said Monday, Aug. 8, that Gov. Charlie Baker is right to stay out of national politics and brushed off criticisms from the state’s top election official who recently said a vote for a third-party candidate would be a “waste.”
As Weld sees the state of the presidential contest, the Libertarian ticket topped by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is no longer just a long-shot bid more likely to play the role of spoiler on Election Day.
Still, Baker has said that despite his dislike of the two major party nominees, he can’t support Weld, the former Massachusetts governor and Baker mentor, because of the Libertarian Party’s platform, including support for legalizing drugs.
Weld said he’s not trying to win over the governor.
“I’m not pitching Charlie because I think he’s very smart to stay out to the national campaign. As soon as he sticks a finger in it, everyone’s going to come to him every morning and say, ‘Well, you’re a gladiator in this contest now what do you think about this sub-issue?’ And he wouldn’t have time to govern here. I think he’s doing just the right thing,” Weld said.
Baker continued to stress that he will be focused on helping down-ballot Republican candidates for state offices in November. Interestingly, Weld said, “I voted for some Libertarian state reps back when I was governor and before.”
“We all know that Bill Weld is nothing if not an unpredictable and iconoclastic guy, and having had a chance to hear a little bit of the back and forth that’s gone on since he got into the race he sounds as articulate and as genuine as ever,” Baker said of his former boss.
The two-term Republican governor of Massachusetts said he and Johnson actually have a path to victory that starts with securing a podium on the debate stage opposite GOP nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“The scenario now is not just to try to pick up a couple states and throw it into the House where who knows what might happen,” Weld told reporters in Boston, saying the “ice is cracking a little bit” in Congress where some Republican members he’s spoken with are reconsidering endorsements. Weld was referring to a situation where the House of Representatives, currently controlled by Republicans, would choose the next president if the Democratic, Republican or third-party tickets were unable to win a majority (270) of electoral college votes in November.
Watch: Weld talks Baker, Galvin, Trump and why he and Johnson can win
Weld joined some of his local campaign staff Monday afternoon to turn in about 3,000 signatures to Secretary of State William F. Galvin’s office, putting the Johnson-Weld ticket, they believe, over the top to qualify for the Massachusetts ballot in November.
Candidates for president must collect at least 10,000 certified signatures from registered voters to qualify for the ballot in Massachusetts, and the Johnson-Weld campaign had already submitted 9,200 signatures. The campaign expects to be on the ballot in all 50 states.
Galvin, who will formally certify Johnson and Weld for the ballot, told Democrats in Philadelphia last month that voting for a third-party candidate was a “waste” more likely to produce “a result you don’t want.”
“We have a path to run right up the middle and win the whole thing here. In fact, that’s what I think is going to happen,” Weld said. “But Libertarians never tell other people what to do, so if anyone in the commonwealth wants to waste their vote casting it for Trump or Clinton it’s OK with us.”
Weld believes that if Johnson and he can crack the 15 percent support threshold by the end of August to qualify for the debates they could run up their support to at least 25 percent nationwide heading into October.
“You show me a three-party race with one at 25 who two and a half months earlier was at five and two at 35 who two and a half months earlier were at 45 and I’ll tell you who’s going to win that race. It’s the one with 25,” Weld said.
National polls averaged by RealClearPolitics show the Johnson-Weld ticket sitting at 8.3 percent support nationally, cracking double digits in only two recent polls. But Weld said fundraising and interest in their campaign has been picking up steam as Trump has faltered in recent weeks and some Republicans are giving them a second look.
After having his ambassadorship to Mexico torpedoed in Congress, Weld left Massachusetts politics for New York where he said he socialized with Trump on several occasions.
“Fine guy. I think he was understated, low-key. When Donald enters the business world he’s a different guy. I think that’s been proved. And I think the Donald Trump who would show up at the White House would be the business Donald Trump. It would not be the family man capable of acts of personal generosity,” Weld said.
Asked why Republicans leery of Trump shouldn’t just vote for Clinton, Weld said Democrats would “have a very hard time given all the promises that were made to the electorate keeping the budget in check and the national deficit from running up.”
Weld said he and Johnson favor smaller government, and cut taxes a combined 35 times as Republican governors of their respective states.
“Nobody can argue we didn’t change our states so I don’t think anyone can argue that Johnson or Weld are incapable of being change agents and that may be a difference between us and other tickets,” he said.
Weld also said he would co-govern with Johnson if elected, discussing how the two men share a friendship that goes beyond politics. On a recent swing to the West Coast last week, Weld said he and Johnson played backgammon to pass the time on the plane and shot pool while waiting for rallies to begin.
“So you know at least I was happy,” he joked.
Weld said he will continue to make media appearances and lead the campaign’s fundraising efforts, and rallies are planned for the week after next in Boston, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.