At this point, what could possibly happen in this cracked campaign that we haven’t already seen? I dunno, maybe somebody will float a story that Hillary had a hit man who arranged for her to have sex trysts. (Oh wait, the National Enquirer did that one last week!) Or maybe the guy with the “Blacks for Trump” sign at Trump rallies will turn out to be an ex-member of a murder cult. (Oh wait, that was reported yesterday!)
And something else yesterday broke new ground. Never before, to my knowledge, has the vice-presidential candidate on a national ticket essentially taken it upon himself to endorse the presidential candidate of a rival ticket. Seriously, if you tried to make this stuff up, nobody would believe it.
But Bill Weld actually did it. The ex-two-term Massachusetts governor – a lifelong moderate Republican and current holder of the Libertarian veep slot – released a statement that eviscerates Donald Trump and, in so many words, urges voters to elect Hillary Clinton. Weld has been making noises about doing this for awhile, but with election day in sight and partner Gary Johnson dropping to minimal single digits, he decided to undercut his own ticket in the national interest:
I would like to address myself to all those in the electorate who remain torn between two so-called major party candidates whom they cannot enthusiastically support. I’m speaking particularly to those Republicans who feel that our President should exhibit commonly accepted standards of decency and discipline. I would not have stepped out of the swirl of the campaign to make this statement if I did not fear for our country, as I do.
A President of the United States operates every day under a great deal of pressure — from all sides, and in furtherance of many different agendas. With that pressure comes constant criticism. After careful observation and reflection, I have come to believe that Donald Trump, if elected President of the United States, would not be able to stand up to this pressure and this criticism without becoming unhinged and unable to perform competently the duties of his office…A serious candidate for the Presidency of the United States must be stable, and Donald Trump is not stable.
…Most families would not allow their children to remain at the dinner table if they behaved as Mr. Trump does. He has not exhibited the self-control, the discipline, or the emotional depth necessary to function credibly as a President of the United States….
This is the worst of American politics. I fear for our cohesion as a nation, and for our place in the world, if this man who is unwilling to say he will abide by the result of our national election becomes our President. This great nation has weathered policy differences throughout our history, and we will do so again. Not in my lifetime, though, has there been a candidate for President who actually makes me fear for the ultimate well-being of the country…
Naturally, the LIbertarians said yesterday that Weld wasn’t trying to denigrate the Libertarian ticket’s ballot prospects, nor was he implicitly endorsing Clinton — but that was just rote PR, with all the value of a $3 bill. Truth is, Weld said on MSNBC not long ago that nobody in the race was more qualified than Clinton (he said this with Gary Johnson sitting beside him). Truth is, Weld has long been a fiercely independent character, an ex-governor and ex-federal prosecutor with sharp political instincts. Most importantly, his remarks yesterday were aimed at fellow moderate Republicans who are repulsed by Trump but who might still be tempted to vote red out of party loyalty.
Indeed, moderate Republicans (fiscally conservative, socially tolerant) still do exist. The traditional pragmatic centrists don’t dominate the Washington GOP anymore, but they live in our suburbs by the millions. Weld doesn’t have the clout or name ID to move them from Trump to Clinton, but the point is, they’re already moving that way. The new Associated Press poll, conducted by the survey firm GfK, reports that 15 percent of Republicans have dumped Trump for Clinton. That may not sound high, but a major party candidate can’t win when the exodus percentage is in double digits. And other moderate Republicans will hurt Trump by simply abstaining.
Bill Weld, by speaking out and potentially hurting his Libertarian ticket (which needs 5 percent of the national vote to qualify for federal money in 2020), is basically a barometer of moderate Republican sentiment — as manifested in the key suburban counties around Philadelphia, where white moderate women will likely be instrumental in costing Trump the Keystone State.
Does Trump have any feasible path to victory? Ex-Bush pollster Matthew Dowd said this morning, “He has the same path as the path to the lost city of Atlantis.” It’s enough to make you wonder what the GOP’s prosepcrs would be like right now if it had nominated someone with even a remote connection to Weld-style sanity. Ask yourself whether John Kasich could’ve won this race.