Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld is teaming up with Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, to offer voters an alternative to the Republican and Democratic tickets in November.
Johnson is hoping to lead the Libertarian presidential ticket. And Weld has agreed to be his running mate.
Johnson ran for president on the Libertarian ticket in 2012 and received just 1 percent of the vote. But he hopes that joining forces with Bill Weld will improve his chances this time.
"When I got elected governor, the smartest guy in the room was Bill Weld, and this is the guy I want to emulate," Johnson said in an interview.
To get on the ballot, Johnson and Weld will need to win the nominations at the Libertarian convention next week in Orlando, but Johnson is considered the front-runner.
He says teaming up with Weld creates a credible alternative to the apparent Republican nominee, Donald Trump, and the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton.
Johnson says the Libertarians will be the only third-party on the ballot in all 50 states. But he acknowledges big challenges, including getting on the presidential debate stage. And to do that, Johnson and Weld need to be polling at at least 15 percent.
"The issue for me in 2012, as it is today, is just being in the polls," Johnson told me. "If Mickey Mouse were the third name in any poll right now, Mickey would poll at 30 percent. But Mickey is not on the ballot in all 50 states. So what I think Bill does is, I think, he adds a whole lot of credibility: 'This is a ticket that belongs in the polls!' "
Weld and Johnson are aligned in many ways. Both are fiscal conservatives with liberal social views. For example, they both support abortion rights and same sex marriage. And both have turned their backs on Republican Party orthodoxy. For example, in the 2008 presidential election, they voted against their party's nominee, John McCain. Johnson supported Bob Barr. And Weld supported the Democrat, Barack Obama.
"Well, I think the calm that Barack Obama has demonstrated in the face of having everything but the kitchen sink thrown at him for the last two years is hugely impressive, and evidence that he could start Monday as president of the United States," Weld said, making his case to MSNBC's Chris Matthews in 2008.
Weld was scheduled to make his vice presidential candidacy official Thursday in New York, but he postponed it and is expected to make the announcement Friday.
But could this ticket make a difference?
A Republican led "Stop Trump" movement has spent tens of millions of dollars so far to no avail. Jeff Stinson, a Republican political consultant, doubts that the Johnson-Weld Libertarian ticket will alter the dynamic of the presidential race — because it will be led by a candidate who only won 1 percent of the vote four years ago.
"Gary Johnson is going to be the one in those debates. Gary Johnson is going to have answer the tough questions, and not to use a Donald Trump phrase, but he's a little bit of a lightweight," Stinson said. "And it's going to take more than Bill Weld, I think, to give them the boost they need."
Stinson calls Weld a great guy and says he was a fantastic governor. But he questions why Weld is taking this on.
"I think this sort of weakens his brand a little. He's always been known as a bridge builder, for sure, but he's also been known as someone who sticks to his principles, and someone who toes the moderate Republican line, and I think this kind of moves him into the wackadoodle category, if you ask me," Stinson said.
Weld told the Boston Globe that he and Johnson are "social liberals and economic and fiscal conservatives," a brand of politics that neither party is offering. For his part, Johnson says Libertarians offer a unique package that includes smaller government, lower taxes, liberal social policies and an end to foreign wars.
"I think that Bill Weld brings that same perspective to this whole equation in spades," Johnson said.
Massachusetts' current governor, Charlie Baker, used to work for Weld and considers him a mentor. Thursday, reporters asked Baker, who says he won't vote for Trump in November, if he plans to support his former boss.
"I think Bill Weld is a great guy, but as I said, I'm not focused on the presidential race," Baker said. "I plan to focus on the [Massachusetts House] and Senate races and on the ballot questions."
Whether or not it alters the shape of the presidential race, news of a Weld-Johnson ticket is the latest indication of just how unusual this political year is. One result here in Massachusetts is that the current Republican governor and two former Republican governors — Weld and Mitt Romney — all oppose the party's nominee.
Johnson was also interviewed on Here & Now:
This article was originally published on May 19, 2016.
This segment aired on May 20, 2016.