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OpinionColumnistsWilliam F. B. O'Reilly

A Gary Johnson-Bill Weld ticket? It could work

Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson makes a

Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson makes a point during a debate hosted by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation and moderated by former CNN talk-show host Larry King on Oct. 23, 2012, in Chicago. Credit: Getty Images / Scott Olson

Just when we thought the 2016 presidential campaign couldn’t get more interesting it did.

On Tuesday word leaked that former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld is being considered as the vice presidential running mate of former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson’s bid for president.

Johnson is expected to be nominated as the Libertarian candidate for the White House at that party’s national convention in Orlando later this month.

In any other year one could be forgiven for rolling his eyes at the news. A Libertarian has never made a dent in the national electorate. Johnson, himself, ran as the Libertarian nominee four years ago and received one percent of the popular vote — just under 1.3 million votes.

But this year is different. Very different. Millions of Americans are hopelessly disenchanted with the choices of the Republican and Democratic parties, and the addition of Weld to the Libertarian ticket could give it the acceptable mainstream feel it lacked four years ago.

Weld is well-known Republican from an old-line New England family. You can’t get more establishment than he. That should be a liability in a political year like this one, but it somehow feels just right when coupled with a free-thinker like Johnson.

I noted in a column a couple of weeks back that Johnson is being unfairly excluded from national surveys. That’s significant because candidates who poll at 15 percent or higher in select national surveys must be included in the primetime national presidential debates.

With Weld on the ticket, it would be harder for pollsters to exclude Johnson from those surveys. The slate would be comprised of two respected former Republican governors who were elected and re-elected by wide margins in deep blue states.

That’s nothing to sneeze at.

Presumably Weld is interested in the VP slot because he didn’t pull his name back when it was confirmed by the Johnson campaign. That, no doubt, raised a lot of eyebrows inside the Washington Beltway and among the #nevertrump and #neverhillary crowds.

Could enough of them go with the fiscally conservative, socially liberal ticket that Johnson-Weld would represent?

Politics is a strange bird. And 2016 is an even stranger year. If the major party nominees turn out to be Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, as expected, and if the attacks between the two become as nasty as promised, an awful lot of political refugees are going to be looking for a Plan C.

With a little luck, and some fair media coverage in a three-way race, anything could happen.

William F. B. O’Reilly is consultant for Republicans.