WASHINGTON — Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson and his running mate, Bill Weld, on Wednesday pledged a less polarized political process if they were elected.
“If either (Donald) Trump or (Hillary) Clinton are elected, things will be more polarized than ever,” Johnson said at a CNN town hall, adding that his role was “calling out both sides.”
The event, moderated by Anderson Cooper, comes as both major party conventions have wrapped up and Republican nominee Trump has become embroiled in yet another interparty fight — this time over his criticism of the family of a slain US Muslim soldier.
Historically, third-party support fades after the major party conventions, but this election has proven time and time again that historical trends do not necessarily apply.
Johnson’s stated goal is to raise his profile enough to secure an invitation to the presidential debates with Trump and Clinton. To do this, he needs to reach an average of at least 15% support in national polls.
So far, he has generally reached between 6%-13% support nationally, with the latest CNN/ORC poll finding him at 9%. The co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates — which Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein have sued — told CNBC on Tuesday that if Johnson were to miss the 15% threshold by a very narrow margin, the commission would consider adding him to the stage.
Since emerging from the Libertarian Party’s convention in May, Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, and Weld, a former Massachusetts chief executive, have relied largely on doing a considerable amount of press to get their names out there and their poll numbers up.
Going forward, the Libertarian ticket can also expect the help of several disaffected Republicans hoping to bolster this third-party bid.
“Like a lot of voters this cycle, I’m extremely dissatisfied with the choices that are being offered by the major parties,” Liz Mair, co-founder of the newly minted group Republicans for Johnson/Weld 2016, said Wednesday on CNN’s “At This Hour.”
Mair, who previously worked for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential campaign, said the group would work to legitimize Johnson in the eyes of Republicans.
“What this group aims to do is make sure that people understand that voting for Gary Johnson is a viable option,” Mair said.
Johnson also ran as a Libertarian in 2012 but he failed to break out, earning slightly more than 1 million votes — .99% of the popular vote. This time around, the Libertarian Party has said it expects to do much better, given the unprecedented attention it has received in the face of historic unfavorability ratings for Trump and Clinton.
The CNN/ORC poll released Tuesday found the majority of registered voters held unfavorable views of Trump and Clinton by 61% and 54% respectively.