SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Libertarian vice presidential nominee Bill Weld told potential voters Wednesday morning that he and Gary Johnson had the "best ticket" for the presidential race this year.
His visit to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, came after weeks of Johnson/Weld billboards lining the city's streets, perhaps hoping to cash in on the Republican state's disenchantment with Donald Trump's campaign.
Both the state's Republican governor Dennis Daugaard and one of its Republican U.S. Senators, John Thune, called for Trump to withdraw from the race after the tape of his lurid conversation about women hit the media.
The Monday after the news broke, a prominent billboard appeared on a busy street in Sioux Falls featuring Gary Johnson and Bill Weld with two words printed across the bottom: "Not Trump."
On Wednesday, Weld was not hesitant to speak about the other presidential candidates.
He called Hillary Clinton, who he worked with on investigating the Watergate scandal in 1973, "well-qualified" to be president. "In her eight years as a Senator, she was known for being well-briefed and well-prepared, and in her four years as Secretary of State," he said. "But she's a little bit too inclined to military intervention on behalf of the U.S. for Gary's taste and my taste ... And she will spend a lot of money, while Gary and I wouldn't. So I don't feel 'guilty' that we're running against the Democratic ticket."
Weld did not talk about winning the race or becoming the next president, but instead spoke in terms of grabbing a bigger piece of the "pie" for the third party.
"We sort of think that if we got to say, 20 percent in the polls at any time in October, we could be dangerous because we do have some good arguments for our candidacy," he said. "We are fiscally responsible and conservative."
"Hillary Rodham is an old friend of mine," he continued, "but nobody would really convincingly argue these days that the Democratic Party in Washington is fiscally responsible — they say everything is going to be free. There's no such thing as free money."
He cautioned that the current spending will "hollow out" the U.S. economy. "There's no such thing as government money," Weld said. "There's only taxpayer money."
Weld also claimed the Libertarian ticket is on the "right side" of social issues.
"We're inclusive," he said.
He cited his own attitudes on "gay marriage" as being ahead of the curve in the 90s, while Gary Johnson was in favor of legalizing marijuana before public opinion began to shift in that direction.
He spoke of his running mate as a "kindred spirit."
"We certainly had the same view about the size of government, the waste of taxpayer money, and the role of government," he said.
He referred to Johnson and himself as "Jeffersonian" for their adherence to Thomas Jefferson's belief that, "That government is best that governs least."
Nor was he bashful about denigrating Donald Trump's campaign. "Mr. Trump I consider a positive danger to the United States, so I don't mind getting out there and having people know that," he said.
"Mr. Trump's plan to round up 11 million people in the middle of the night and deport them all reminded me of Anne Frank, hiding in the attic, when Hitler's Nazis were trying to find all the Jews and do worse than deport them," he added. "And it's the fear, and living in the shadows, that's bad for the United States."
He followed up by touting the Libertarian ticket's pro-immigration stance, calling for an increase in work visas, especially in states that depend on immigrant labor in agricultural and construction jobs.
He also proposed setting up a dedicated task force to closely investigate suspected terrorists.
Any suspected terrorist who was not indicted within six months of opening an investigation would be removed from the "watch list," he said.
"It doesn't sound Libertarian because it's a task force and it's targeting people, but it's targeting terrorists," he said. "It's not using the Patriot Act to go around to the local library and see who's taking out books on war."
South Dakota is home to about 1,500 registered Libertarian voters, and 114,000 independents out of 535,000 voters total.
The state has three electoral votes in presidential elections.
Election predictor FiveThirtyEight.com estimates that Gary Johnson will attain 6 percent of the popular vote nationwide in November. The same site predicts Trump has an 82 percent chance of winning South Dakota.
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