Why is Trump really speaking at the Libertarian conference? RFK Jr’s polls

The former president will be a headline speaker in DC later this month

John Bowden
Washington DC
Thursday 02 May 2024 16:51 BST
Donald Trump holds a campaign event in Waukesha, Wisconsin on 1 May 2024
Donald Trump holds a campaign event in Waukesha, Wisconsin on 1 May 2024 (Getty Images)

Donald Trump will be a headline speaker at the 2024 Libertarian National Convention, the nominating contest for one of the US’s highest-performing non-major political parties.

The surprise announcement made by the convention’s organizers on Wednesday pointed to one major issue of the 2024 race. Both Democrats and Republicans fear that third-party candidates could tilt the scales in favor of the other candidate this November.

The Libertarian party’s convention is set for later this month in Washington, DC. A Twitter post from the organization indicated that Trump’s address will take place on May 25. Should he go through with the plans, Trump would become the first major-party candidate in modern history to speak at a convention run by a party other than the Democratic or Republican parties.

“Libertarians are some of the most independent and thoughtful thinkers in our country, and I am honored to join them in Washington, DC, later this month,” Trump said in a statement shared by the party on Twitter. “We must all work together to help advance freedom and liberty for every American, and a second Trump administration will achieve that goal. I look forward to speaking at the Libertarian event, which will be attended by many of my great friends.”

He added: “We all have to remember that our goal is to defeat the worst president in the history of the United States, BY FAR, Crooked Joe Biden.”

His address may cause further consternations for the Libertarians themselves, who have grappled with a pro-Trump and rightward shift that not everyone in the party is happy about.

In 2020, the Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen wrote in an op-ed for The Independent that Libertarians “welcome free trade and open immigration, and encourage peace and diplomacy in foreign affairs,” adding that he wanted to “unite Americans behind the cause of personal responsibility and individual liberty.” He said that he wanted to improve the healthcare system and take an stance that would stop the US invading other countries.

However, in 2023, the party’s chairwoman rushed to the former president’s defence after he was criminally charged for his attempts to stop the peaceful transfer of power and the certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

Trump won’t receive the Libertarian party’s nomination for president, as three candidates are running for that slot: Dr Charles Ballay, Lars Mapstead and Mike ter Maat. Those three candidates held a debate in April.

But this is a crucial year for Trump to court Libertarian voters regardless, as polls indicate that Americans are flirting with voting third-party in numbers not seen in decades. A recent CNN national poll showed Robert F Kennedy Jr winning 16 per cent in a vote in a matchup between Joe Biden and Donald Trump which also factored in third-party candidates Kennedy, Dr Jill Stein and Dr Cornel West.

Kennedy has been quietly backed by pro-Trump figures including Steve Bannon, Mr Trump’s former chief White House strategist. But now some figures in Trumpworld reportedly fear that Kennedy may pick up more disaffected voters who otherwise could have ended up voting for the former president.

Previous reporting indicated that Kennedy was flirting with a run for the Libertarian nomination, but he put that speculation to bed in April after claiming that he would be able to attain ballot access without the party’s help.

"We're not gonna have any problems getting on the ballot ourselves so we won't be running Libertarian," he told ABC News.

His spokesman later added to The Hill: “Mr Kennedy has many areas of alignment with the Libertarian party, including a strong stance on civil liberties and keeping the country out of foreign wars. Mr Kennedy, however, is not contemplating joining the Libertarian ticket. He is running as an independent candidate and will be on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”

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