Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and his running mate, Bill Weld, took the national stage for the second time during a CNN town hall event Wednesday night. Polling near the 15% threshold to qualify for the fall presidential debates, Johnson and Weld made the case that they are the best alternative to the two broadly unpopular major party tickets.
News broke Wednesday that a new CNN survey shows Johnson polling at 15% in midwestern states. A Fox News 3-way race shows Johnson polling at 12 percent. Real Clear Politics average in a 4-way race shows Johnson at 7.4% as of the most recent polls.
“This interview here is going to push us over 17%,” Johnson teased when host Anderson Cooper asked him about the ticket’s polling numbers.
Johnson and Weld took questions from Cooper and the audience. Both candidates spoke to voters who feel disenchanted by the candidates being offered by the Republican and Democratic parties. On one hand, Weld said he and Johnson were rated the most fiscally conservative governors in the U.S., but on the other hand they have also challenged the status quo on socially progressive issues like advocating for LGBTQ rights.
“We want the government out of your pocketbook and out of your bedroom,” Weld said.
Johnson argued that if Trump or Clinton are elected, things will be more polarized than ever. Johnson said he believes Clinton is beholden to donors and special interests while Weld said he believes Trump is more of a showman.
Johnson doesn’t believe that people are as divided as the current two-party system suggests. He said that life in the U.S. is better. People agree on more issues, young people are smarter than ever, and the “two-party duopoly” doesn’t represent Americans as a whole.
Instead of focusing on partisan differences, Johnson and Weld said they want to focus on issues and solutions.
“Our proposals coming out of the White House would not say, ‘Take that you stupid D Party or you stupid R Party,’ it would be ‘here’s what we think this is kind of in the middle, can we come together around this’ and the recipients of that information would not feel attacked so they might be more likely to come to the table.” Weld said
Speaking on a number of topics, Johnson and Weld laid out their platform, which they say is pro-immigration, pro-Second Amendment, pro-LGBTQ rights, pro-marijuana legalization, anti-discrimination, promotes more local control over education by eliminating the Department of Education, cuts taxes and the federal debt, and pushes a foreign policy that protects the U.S. but does not continue the business of “regime change.”
Anderson Cooper remarked that the messaging coming out of the Johnson/Weld ticket is not something people are accustomed to. Throughout the town hall, Johnson used phrases like “maybe I am wrong” or “perhaps we are this” and “perhaps we are that,” which challenges traditional campaign orthodoxy that a candidate would never admit the possibility that he or she could be wrong or could make a mistake.
“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything,” Johnson said. “If you tell the truth then you can admit mistakes.”
The next step for Johnson and Weld is qualifying for the fall presidential debates to boost their name recognition and be included in the national political narrative. The campaign launched a #15for15 campaign this week, which aims to raise $1.4 million on August 15 in order to boost their presence and numbers in national polls.
Cooper announced that CNN will host a town hall for the Green Party’s presidential ticket in New York City on Wednesday, August 17 at 9 pm ET / 6 pm PT.