The Gary Johnson Effect Revisited: Is the Libertarian Hurting Hillary?

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Back in May, I speculated that the conventional wisdom that Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson would disproportionately impact Donald Trump was wrong, and that Johnson was instead pulling support from both Trump and Hillary Clinton in almost equal measure.

Fast-forward roughly four months, and it would appear the major candidates are realizing this as well — especially Clinton, whose campaign is now reportedly worried about the effect Johnson may have in a handful of important swing states:

…[A]s national and battleground polls tighten and Democrats’ hand-wringing grows more urgent, operatives both within and allied with Clinton’s political operation who are looking around to explain Trump’s new polling strength are growing increasingly wary of the former New Mexico governor. His appeal with young and libertarian-leaning liberals, they worry, could create a growing headache for them in western states like Nevada, Colorado, and Arizona — if not yet reason to believe he could hand the states to Trump.

[…]

Clinton has maintained a steady lead in both New Mexico and Colorado throughout the year, but her strategists in Colorado — once considered a core swing state — have been warning that Johnson could pull from her support there for months. While that hasn’t happened, recent polling shows that Nevada is still a neck-and-neck race: Clinton leads by less than a point there according to the RealClearPolitics average.

“My understanding is that Trump has remained fairly steady and the transition recently has been the Clinton campaign slipping in some of the polls, and where that happens it seems like [Johnson] or ‘none of the above’ is on the rise,” said [former Gov.

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Please, Can Someone Help Explain Religious Freedom to Gary Johnson?

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson recently sat down with Townhall.com’s Guy Benson for a fascinating interview covering a number of different topics. In “Part II” of the interview, Johnson intimated that he disagreed with his running mate Bill Weld’s one-time suggestion that Stephen Breyer or Merrick Garland would be ideal Supreme Court nominees, and he suggested that he would not be opposed to a bill protecting the unborn after 20 weeks (though he also insisted that he did not object to the pro-abortion Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling being “the law of the land”).

However, when the discussion turned to religious liberty, Johnson seemed completely out of his depth, something which should come as no surprise to The Pulse 2016 readers who have followed our coverage of his numerous, head-scratching remarks on the subject.

First, Johnson again tried to draw a distinction between Utah’s religious liberty compromise legislation and the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which Johnson views as problematic (though his reasons for doing so are flawed, as I pointed out here). Most tellingly, when Benson asked Johnson how Indiana’s RFRA law differs from New Mexico’s RFRA — which Johnson signed as governor — the Libertarian had a quick reply: “I don’t know.”

Next, the interview moved on to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision:

BENSON: … Was Hobby Lobby, the decision from the Supreme Court — was that rightly decided, in your view?

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The New, Improved GOP Includes Social Conservatives, Excludes Libertarians

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Jennifer Rubin, the ostensibly “conservative” columnist for The Washington Post, raged at social conservatives yesterday for attacking Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson. As Danny Cannon wrote for The Pulse 2016 yesterday, Johnson is not remotely conservative, but nevertheless, Rubin, a staunch libertarian in GOP clothing, has written glowingly about him on multiple occasions.

Rubin opens with a completely false premise:

Social conservatives, more than any segment of the Republican Party, have suffered a grievous blow this presidential cycle. They have proved themselves entirely powerless to stop the impending nomination of a thrice-married, lying casino operator with no affection for their issues (e.g. defunding Planned Parenthood, reversing gay marriage).

The idea that Donald Trump has “no affection” for social conservative issues is absurd. Trump has aligned himself with social conservatives from the very moment he began his presidential campaign. He has promised to specifically appoint “pro-life” judges to the Supreme Court — something no other GOP nominee has ever done — and he has pledged to support pro-life legislative priorities, such as signing a ban on abortions after 20 weeks and defunding Planned Parenthood.

He also promised to support efforts to protect religious freedom. Trump sent American Principles Project a letter last December promising to sign the First Amendment Defense Act into law, important legislation which would protect gay marriage dissenters from government persecution.

Trump has also been great on other issues social conservatives care about. He has repeatedly voiced support for traditional marriage. Continue Reading

Gary Johnson and William Weld Are Not Conservative Alternatives

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Over the weekend, the Libertarian Party nominated former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson for the presidency, with former Massachusetts Governor William Weld serving as his running mate. Now, some, including Johnson himself, are suggesting that the Libertarian ticket could be the perfect choice for conservative voters unsatisfied with Donald Trump. The Wall Street Journal published an editorial yesterday urging voters to consider Johnson, describing him as “an honorable alternative if Mr. Trump makes himself unacceptable.” By social conservative standards, however, both Johnson and Weld are unacceptable already.

In a section on his website ironically titled “Abortion and the Right to Life,” Governor Johnson states that it is the woman’s “right” to abortion which “must be respected.” “[W]omen seeking to exercise their legal right,” he says, “must not be subjected to persecution or denied access to health services by politicians in Washington or elsewhere who are insistent on politicizing an intensely personal and serious issue.” Governor Weld, for his part, is even more liberal on the issue. While Johnson allows for bans on late-term abortions, Weld has supported abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, including partial-birth abortions.

And while Johnson favors leaving abortion up to the states, neither he nor his running mate feel the same way about same-sex marriage, which both support. In 2011, in fact, Governor Johnson criticized Obama for not taking enough federal control on the issue. In Massachusetts, Weld worked hard as governor to lay the groundwork for same-sex marriage. Continue Reading

The Gary Johnson Effect: Could the Libertarian Hurt Trump?

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

The Daily Caller reported this week that a source within Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson’s campaign suggested the former New Mexico governor could be in line for a fundraising boon should he sew up the Libertarian Party nomination as expected:

Billionaire businessman and philanthropist David Koch has pledged “tens of millions of dollars” to help bankroll the campaign of Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, according to a source within Johnson’s campaign.

[…]

A Koch spokesman initially declined to comment on the record.

But after publication, the spokesman told TheDC: “Reports that David Koch has pledged his support to Gary Johnson – or any candidate running for president for that matter – are untrue.”

Despite that denial, a source with a leadership position in the Libertarian Party told The Daily Caller Thursday afternoon that Johnson’s on track to receive the billionaire’s support.

“In the event that a Johnson/[Bill] Weld ticket emerges from the convention, a pathway is in place for significant funding from Koch, [Steve] Wynn and other large donors,” the source said.

If the story is true, the Johnson campaign could be poised to have a significant impact on the 2016 presidential election — certainly a far bigger impact than Libertarians have had in recent years — especially given the relative unpopularity of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the likely Republican and Democratic nominees, respectively.

In fact, although very few polls have including Johnson in their polling this early on, the polls that have show him registering a much larger share of the vote than the .99 percent he won in 2012. Continue Reading

Libertarians Debate Religious Freedom (VIDEO)

Did you know there was a Libertarian Party presidential debate last week?

I don’t blame you if you didn’t, as the mainstream media all but ignored it — and maybe justifiably since the Libertarians have zero chance at winning the presidency. That being said, the debate was very interesting. Several different issues of interest to us here at The Pulse 2016 were discussed, including abortion and religious freedom.

Three candidates participated: former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who ran as the Libertarian Party nominee in 2012; tech entrepreneur John McAfee; and Austin Petersen, a 35-year-old, libertarian blogger/policy wonk who could easily pass for Marco Rubio.

On religious freedom, a sharp contrast emerged between Johnson, who wants to force religious dissenters to take part in marriage ceremonies, bake cakes for gay weddings, etc., and Petersen, who argued for conscience protections for people of faith:

PETERSEN: I just want to say that, you know, yes, Governor Johnson has stated that he does side with him [Bernie Sanders] on social issues, and we had a big kerfuffle in Oregon last week because Governor Johnson has stated that he believes that bakers should be forced to bake wedding cakes for people they disagree with — homosexual couples. And this is a big problem because we’re running for President as a Libertarian…

STOSSEL: But is he correct in quoting you?

JOHNSON: Yes, but I think that if you discriminate on the basis of religion, I think that is a black hole. Look, I think you should be able to discriminate for stink, or you not wearing shoes, or whatever, but I’ll tell you what, if we discriminate on the basis of religion, to me, that’s doing harm to a big class of people —

PETERSEN: Should a Jewish baker be required to bake a Nazi wedding cake?

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Ron Paul: “There Is Absolutely No Difference” Between Hillary and Trump

Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Earlier this week, former Rep. Ron Paul explained to CNN why a libertarian cannot endorse Donald Trump’s authoritarian approach:

My biggest beef is, from a libertarian viewpoint, there is absolutely no difference, meaningful difference, between Hillary and Trump. They both support the military industrial complex, the Federal Reserve, deficits, entitlements, invasion of our privacy. And it’s super nationalistic populism versus socialism. That is so removed from what we need to be doing. We need to remove ourselves from tyranny.

He went on to explain:

From a libertarian viewpoint of limited government there is nothing they are offering that reduces the size and scope of the intrusion of government. Who offers any cuts in spending? Who offers protection of our liberty? Some of the top candidates want to carpet-bomb the world.

Brittany Klein is the co-author of Jephthah’s Daughters: Innocent Casualties in the War for Family ‘Equality’ and serves on the board and academic council of the International Children’s Rights Institute. Continue Reading

“Live Free or Die!” Will Ted Cruz Inherit the Rand (and Ron) Paul Voters?

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Time Magazine reports on Ted Cruz’s embrace of the Paul “liberty voters” in New Hampshire. Subhead: “The Iowa Republican winner appeals by trumpeting the gold standard, privacy rights and limits on eminent domain.”

Time‘s Alex Altman reports from Salem, NH:

In the hours after Sen. Rand Paul dropped out of the presidential race Wednesday, the libertarian state representative and passionate Paul supporter [Eric Eastman] says he fielded a personal phone call from Jeb Bush and an offer from Donald Trump’s campaign promising VIP treatment. Even an aide to Chris Christie reached out. But as he processed his grief over Paul’s exit, Eastman already had a new candidate in mind.

On the night of Paul’s exit, Eastman went to see Ted Cruz in Nashua, N.H. …. By Friday night, Eastman was onstage at a jam-packed Cruz town hall … offering his endorsement and telling the crowd that the Tea Party Texan and the Kentucky libertarian were “close cousins” philosophically. “Chapter and verse, the two guys are aligned in many ways,” Eastman explained in an interview.

This has been Cruz’s argument from the beginning, and it could come in handy next Tuesday in New Hampshire, where libertarian Ron Paul got 23% of the Republican primary vote in 2012.

[…]

On cornerstone libertarian issues—privacy, civil liberties, gun rights and others—the two freshman senators are largely in step. It’s why big libertarian donors like Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire, have written big checks to Cruz four years after funneling more than $2.5 million to Ron Paul.

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Libertarian Hawks?

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Ted Cruz has a problem.  The foundation of the Senator’s campaign depends on winning among two major voting groups: evangelicals and libertarians.  On its face, this strategy makes sense.  Both are groups heavily represented in the early primary states, and anyone lucky enough to get their support could become a major player in the Republican primaries.  A second glance, though, shows that succeeding with this strategy is easier said than done, as virtually every candidate is trying to curry favor with evangelicals, and Cruz faces stiff competition for the second group from Rand Paul.

Cruz believes he’s found a way to overcome this shortfall, however, by going after libertarians who disagree with Rand’s national security policy:

Perhaps surprisingly, Cruz’s [analytics] team discovered that national security is a prominent and growing concern among libertarian voters. “There is a plurality of libertarians whose top issue is national security today,” [Cruz campaign director of research and analytics Chris] Wilson says, pegging the figure in the mid-30s. “Now, I doubt that was the case in 2008. It may not have been even in 2012. But today it is.” Consequently, he believes that Cruz’s support for the USA Freedom Act, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell backed begrudgingly after failing to pass a bill reauthorizing the Patriot Act, hit the sweet spot in terms of appealing to libertarians who dislike the NSA but fear ISIS.

Is national security a major issue for libertarians?  Probably, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that their definition of national security probably differs from Mr. Continue Reading