Former Congressman Vin Weber: Add Third-Party Candidate to Presidential Debates

VinWeber Former Congressman Vin Weber.

In a interview with Michael A. Smerconish (a weekly Saturday program on CNN) which was broadcast earlier today, former Republican Congressman, and current Jeb Bush adviser, Vin Weber called for the addition of a Third Party candidate to the Presidential debates.

A transcript of the relevant portions of the broadcast follows:

SMERCONISH: There is a new frontrunner emerging from the pack of 2016 GOP Presidential candidates, Marco Rubio (is) gaining traction. He is currently leading Jeb Bush in the latest polls, and, of course, Hillary is still the favorite among Democrats. So whether it is Marco or Hillary to punch their party’s ticket, the final two will have the inevitable faceoff during the presidential debates. But what if there were one more voice added to that debate stage? Someone other than a Democrat or a Republican? It could happen; there is a new push to reform the presidential debate system to include third-party candidates. Let’s bring in someone who is pushing for this change,  Vin Weber a former Republican Congressman from Minnesota; he is also an adviser to Jeb Bush.

Help me understand this; in twelve years in the (United States) Congress, you established a relationship as a stalwart Republican; you are advising Jeb Bush. Why do you want a third person, or a fourth person, on that debate stage?

WEBER: It is a good question, and it is an important question. I am a Republican; I do expect to support Governor Bush as our nominee and most likely anyone else who might defeat him as the nominee, because I am a Republican. But what should matter more to all of us is the health of our political system, and it is not very good right now. The Gallup Polls show that the largest number of people, 43 percent, largest in the history of Gallup, identify themselves as Independents. Different polling questions put from 60 to 80 percent the number of people who think that our political system is dysfunctional and broken; we are on the wrong track according to about 60 percent of the American people.

There is no one answer to this, but all of us, whether we are Republicans or Democrats or Independents ought to think about what is wrong with our political system. There is a whole list of things, but one is the presidential campaign system seems to most people to be rigged in favor of the two parties, in which they have diminishing confidence.

SMERCONISH: I am one of those 43 percent, so I am all ears on this idea. But why is the inclusion of a third person on that stage necessarily a boost for the Independent movement? What will it force the other two to do?

WEBER: It will force the other two to think about swing votes. Increasingly the Democrats and the Republicans, as the parties have become more polarized, have aimed their appeals more at the hardcore bases of both parties, and that is the strategy that both parties have been pursuing in the two elections. It did not used to be that way. When I was involved in politics, running for office, helping people like my friend like Jack Kemp run for President in 1988, a big part of our strategy was (considering) how do you get to independent voters, swing voters, people in the middle. Now it is just, how do you turn out more and more and more of your base, which increasingly, is further to the left for the Democratic Party; further to the right in the Republican Party. You need to make clear that there is a big block of voters somewhere else, partially because they might succeed, but mainly, from my standpoint so the Republicans and Democrats will have an interest in competing for them.

SMERCONISH: The last time this took place, 1992, there was a Bush on that stage; it was Papa Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush; Ross Perot was the third-party candidate. You know that many in your party said that Perot cost, by his presence, George Herbert Walker Bush that election.

WEBER: Let me make a couple of points. First of all, I know that a lot of people in my party . . . and they have told me this in the course of this . . .

SMERCONISH: Is Jeb upset with you for pushing this?

WEBER: No, he has never said anything to me about it; I don’t think that he would be upset. There are a lot of points to resolve here. First of all, we want to resolve this before we get so far into the process that the candidates do begin to weigh whether this is good for me or bad for me; right now they are not thinking about that. Second of all, social science done since 1992 kind of disputes the notion that Perot cost Bush the election, so I think that you just have to say that, that is not necessarily the case.

SMERCONISH: In the introduction I mentioned that Marco Rubio is now leading Jeb Bush in the polls. Does that mean that Jeb Bush better hurry and get into this thing or he is going to be eclipsed?

WEBER: . . . We are changing subjects here . . .

(Ed NOTE: At this point, an approximately 75-second -long portion of the interview unrelated to the CPD and third-parties generally was not transcribed and is not reproduced here.)

SMERCONISH: If Jeb Bush watches this interview and calls Vin Weber and says, “Vin, you’re killing me with this campaign to put somebody else on the debate stage; it could be someone who draws votes from me!” you will say to him, what?

WEBER: That is not really the way to think about this issue; I think that the way to think about this issue is, the health of the political system. You want to be President of a country that has a vibrant political system in which most people have confidence. I hope that is not what we find out down the road, but that is not the issue. The issue is restoring some vitality to the American political system which is (at a) serious, dangerous tipping-point, almost.

SMERCONISH: I would just point out that the debate that included Ross Perot far exceeded in the ratings that that took place in the 2012 cycle; I think that there is a real audience for this. I agree; I think that it would be healthy for the country.

WEBER: And we have a much larger population now and still smaller numbers of people are watching than watched the debate in 1992. We need to get people back into believing in the American political process, which has been the most successful democracy in the (history of) the world. This is not the only problem; this is not the ultimate solution, but this is a piece of the solution and we ought to pursue it.

SMERCONISH: Congressman Vin Weber, thank you so much for being here.

6 thoughts on “Former Congressman Vin Weber: Add Third-Party Candidate to Presidential Debates

  1. John Carmody

    Gary Johnson would smoke both major party candidates, regardless of who they are.

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