Will Libertarian ticket impact the 2016 presidential race?

Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR join John Yang to discuss the latest in politics, including how the Libertarian party ticket of Gary Johnson and Bill Weld can make a difference in the presidential race, the topsy-turvy internal divisions within the GOP, and what Sen. Bernie Sanders’ last stand in California means for Democrats.

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    The presidential candidates had a relatively low-key Memorial Day.

    Hillary Clinton, who's closing in on the Democratic nomination, went back to the town she now calls home, Chappaqua, New York, to march in a local Memorial Day parade. Bernie Sanders spent today in California, the big prize of next Tuesday's primaries, and possibly his last stand. He marked the holiday in San Francisco, ahead of two events this evening in Oakland.

    Republican Donald Trump stayed out of the public eye today. But as of this weekend, he can now count a former Republican governor as a third-party rival. Gary Johnson, who was once New Mexico's chief executive, ran for president as a Libertarian in 2012, winning just about 1 percent of the vote. On Sunday, the party made him its nominee once again, and picked another former Republican governor, William Weld of Massachusetts, to be his running mate.

    For more on all this and the week ahead in politics, we have Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    So, Amy, Tam, reporters finally got their contested convention this weekend. The Libertarians went to two ballots. With both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the two major party nominees, so unpopular, the Libertarians are hoping this is going be their big year.

    Amy, what do you think?

  • AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report:

    Well, they got a couple of hurdles to overcome.

    The first is, I don't think a lot of people know anything about Gary Johnson or William Weld or what they stand for, and so they are going to have to figure out what their message is beyond just, I'm not Donald Trump, I'm not Hillary Clinton.

    The second thing is, they have got to figure out how to raise money to get that message out and to get some attention. And, finally, they got to figure out if they can get the 15 percent — that's the threshold that you need to hit in major polls leading up to the first presidential debate to be included in those.

    Now, we remember Ross Perot was included in the debates in 1992. I think that, in 1980, you had Anderson was included in at least one of those debates. But 15 percent is still a very high bar. Without it, it means that they're not going to get a whole much attention later in the fall.


    Can they still make an impact? Can they still have a difference in this face?

    People will still tell you if they were do wild calculations to say that Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the 2000 election. But, Tam, can they really make a difference this year?


    And I will say Ralph Nader continues to disagree with that assessment. But most people feel the other way.

    In talking to voters out there, you hear people, you hear Republicans saying, I can't vote for Donald Trump. And maybe the Libertarians are a landing place, because they are fiscally conservative and they want government out of your life. Then you talk to some Democrats. I was talking to some Democrats in Albuquerque who are Bernie people.

    But they — if Bernie is not there, rather write in, they might vote for Gary Johns, they said. And they're — the Libertarian platform is pro-marijuana, which has in the past attracted some subset of younger voters who get excited about.

    So, they are not, as far as we can tell — and things have been wild this year, so subject to change — they are not getting a huge influx of voters necessarily.


    You talk about the Republicans, the never Trumpers on the Republican side. They still keep talk be about another candidate.

    This weekend, we had that tantalizing tweet from Bill Kristol saying there was going to be another candidate. Are they still looking? Are they still trying to come up with someone, Amy?


    There's still a fringe part of the never Trump movement.

    Bill Kristol is leading that charge. He's the publisher of The Weekly Standard, and suggesting that there could be another candidate out there. As you said, there was a sort of cryptic tweet that over the holiday weekend an independent candidate is going to come out, he's going to be amazing. Actually didn't have a gender. This person is going to be amazing. Just wait until you see who this person.

    We don't have the name of that candidate yet, but they have their own hurdles as an independent candidate. At least the Libertarian candidates have ballot access because of their party status. A third-party candidate, in order to get on the ballot, there is a tremendous level of work that you need to do.

    We have already had one state where the deadline has passed. That's Texas. North Carolina is in a week from now. You need hundreds of thousands of signatures, so it's not an easy task to overcome. But it goes to the bigger point, and this is what Tam brought up too, which is, what do these candidates who feel like neither candidate speaks to them — if you're a Republican who just can't vote for Donald Trump, are you going to vote for a Libertarian who may also not share your values?

    Their platform on issues, on social issues especially, is going to be far to the left from any conservative Republicans. Their platform on some fiscal issues may be too far to the right for some Democrats. This is going to be not an easy landing place for a lot of voters.


    And like a lot of the discussion is about down-ballot candidates, congressional candidates, Senate candidates. How much is trying to affect the presidential race? How much of this is trying to give small-government conservatives that you were talking about earlier a reason to go to the polls to vote for other candidates?


    I don't think that the Libertarians are trying to give them a reason, but, certainly, the never Trumps are looking for something to help these down-ballot candidates.

    And really down-ballots, Senate, House, they are working on it on their own. You hear a lot of members of Congress — or at least some share, members of Congress, saying, I support the party's nominee. And they don't utter the name Donald Trump, because they don't want to get those unfavorables to brush off on them.

    So, I think that there is a lot of scrambling right now trying to figure out how they deal, how these candidates deal with a top of the ticket that is wildly unpopular with the next six months that are inevitably going to be scorched earth from both Trump and Clinton, and how you do get people to care, show up, and vote.


    And Donald Trump has obviously not shown much, I don't know, shall we say, he's not really magnanimous when it comes to people who say that they're not going to support him or have not been full-throated in their endorsement of him.

    As we saw last week, he told — made some very unflattering statements about the governor of New Mexico, a Republican who hasn't endorsed him, and other Republicans who haven't come on board with him.

    So, for these Republicans trying to figure out how do I not endorse him, but stay with him, distance myself, but not, he's clearly shown you that he's not going to take that lightly. If you don't show up to an event as elected official in the town he's in that you represent, he's probably going to call you out about that.


    He essentially says, I don't need them.


    Yes, I don't need them, but I would like to attack them nonetheless.


    Let's talk about the Democrats.

    Bernie Sanders is essentially all in, in California. Looks like he's not going to leave the state before the primary. Why? Why is he doing this? Why is he making this last stand there?


    I think the bottom line is because he can.

    And, mathematically — and Tamara and I have talked about this now for months, about how important the math is, the delegate math. Hillary Clinton is on track to win the nomination. She has pledged delegate support. Remember, the candidates that you win by winning states, 54 percent of the pledged delegates. She's gotten 60 percent of the total super, plus pledged delegates.

    She has a lead in the overall popular vote. Bernie Sanders would need to win 91 percent of all the pledged and superdelegates in order to win. That's not going to happen. But what he's been able to do — and I think for all the talk about all the disruptions in this campaign, this thing, this smartphone has been one of the biggest disrupters, because, normally, in the old days, a candidate like Bernie Sanders, who was mathematically eliminated, who lost lot of big states, would run out of money.

    And he would have had to have left the campaign trail. Now he's able to raise all of it online, in small donations. He's also able to organize his volunteers and his supporters with this tool, with blogs and all of the rest. That has been the thing that has kept Bernie Sanders in this race.


    And, Tamara, you just were out in California. What does it look like on the ground out there?


    Certainly, both candidates are competing very hard.

    Bernie Sanders, this weekend, went to Visalia, California, which is not a big city. I think it is down on the list of the size of cities in the California Central Valley, which is not the most populous part of California. He's going all over.

    Hillary Clinton is also going, was there. She's going back. She is spending a lot of time there. This is not for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders really about winning the nomination. This is about that taste that is left in people's mouths at the very end of the primary process.

    For Hillary Clinton, if she were to lose California at the very end, she is likely to have clinched already in New Jersey or even before that. But it just leaves us sort of like, ugh, OK, it sucks the wind out, it takes the momentum away.

    For Bernie Sanders, if he's going to make an argument to these superdelegates that they are completely wrong and they shouldn't be supporting Hillary Clinton, the only thing he's got is to be able to say, look at the most populous blue state in America. I won that state. That's what he is fighting for right now.


    So, just like Hollywood, California, it's all about image and perception.




    OK, great.

    Amy, Tamara, thanks a lot for being with us.


    You're welcome.

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