The Libertarian Party National Convention officially starts Friday May 27th. The night before, following tradition, there is an unofficial Presidential and Vice Presidential debate. There are no CSPAN cameras at this debate and it, sometimes unfortunately, gets much more heated. Nonetheless, the first Libertarian convention debate is considered the last word before the convention officially begins and is named accordingly. It’s critically important for anyone seeking the Presidential and Vice Presidential nominations to make a good impression during this debate. Luckily for the front runners, that was the case. Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld both clinched wins during their respective debates.
Because of the large number of Presidential candidates the Presidential debate was split up into three tiers that eventually whittled down to the final five. Most of the earlier rounds were uneventful given that large number of candidates resulted in each candidate having a much reduced speaking time. Hours in to the debate it eventually entered the final round. The usual suspects took the stage yet again and made their pitch to the crowd. The audience was mostly made up of the so-called ‘Radical Caucus’ members and others who decided to come to the convention early. After a raucous debate, the organizers took a straw poll of attendees. Here are those results:
- Gary Johnson – 35%
- Austin Petersen – 24%
- Darryl W. Perry – 23%
- John McAfee – 13%
- Marc Allen Feldman – 4%
- NOTA – 1%
As you can see, the extremist nature of the crowd had a clear effect on the results of the debate. We’ll spare you the drunken details of the constant audience interruptions and disrespect.
Gary Johnson took the lead with a strong plurality thanks to his honest answers to candidate and audience questions. Austin Petersen also performed as expected with well rehearsed talking points and a strong second place finish. Following Petersen is where the results become interesting. While most would assume that John McAfee would have been in third place, seeing as he has been in both of the televised Presidential debates, that was not the case. Rather, the activists in the crowd gave Darryl W. Perry third place and only a handful of votes behind Austin Petersen. McAfee took far less support that his campaign was probably predicting.
After the Presidential debate there was a short break before the Vice Presidential candidates took the stage. What followed was one of the most disrespectful farces imaginable. Each of the desperate Vice Presidential candidates challenging Bill Weld took their turn and cast their stones through their glass houses. They drug the performance deep below the gutter with juvenile attempts designed to rile up the front runner. Thankfully, there was at least one person on the stage with some class. Bill Weld did not stoop to their level. He responded to each of the candidates questions respectfully, and addressed concerns from libertarians at large. Weld’s magnanimity was a true demonstration of what makes someone worthy of the party’s nomination. Here are that debate’s straw poll results:
- Bill Weld – 38%
- Will Coley – 21%
- Larry Sharpe – 21%
- Alicia Dearn – 13%
- Judd Weiss – 5%
- Stewart – 1%
- Ron Paul – 1%
Luckily those candidates suffered for their behavior. The second and third place finishers were far behind the front runner.
These debate results confirm that despite a few early issues that some libertarians may have had with Bill Weld they view him as the credible party nominee we need. His addressing those concerns head on with direct statements clearly had an positive effect on the delegates. What’s interesting is that Bill Weld actually got slightly higher support than Gary Johnson, although that might be due to the reduced field. Like the Presidential results, there is a clear gap between first place and the rest of the field fighting over second place. Coley and Sharpe are neck and neck with Dearn attempting to catch up. Weiss at least has the consolation prize of beating Ron Paul.
Hopefully the rest of the convention and future debates will not repeat the debauchery of this first event. As many libertarians noted, it would have embarrassed them to bring a new voter to witness what took place last night. Nonetheless, the debates do confirm that the Governors are the front runners. Gary Johnson and Bill Weld both took commanding leads in their debate straw polls. Libertarians appear to be coming around to the reality that the party needs a serious credible ticket with governing experience this year.