‘He’s more delusional than I thought’: Libertarians jeer Trump during convention speech

His speech devolved into a testy back-and-forth.

Within minutes of beginning speaking — and after enduring sustained jeering and boos — the former president turned on the third party, mocking its poor electoral record in presidential elections even as he appealed to them for their endorsement.

“What’s the purpose of the Libertarian Party of getting 3 percent?” Trump asked the crowd, which proceeded to pelt him with jeers. “You should nominate Trump for president only if you want to win.”

The libertarians in attendance didn’t want to hear it, as hecklers chucked insults at Trump all night. “Liar,” they called him. “Panderer,” they shouted. “You crushed our rights,” they belted.

The raucous reception laid bare the difficulties confronting Trump in his effort to expand his base and cut off a third-party threat, not only from Libertarians, but also from independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Despite the Libertarian Party’s relatively small following, its 2020 candidate, Jo Jorgensen, drew more votes in some close states than the margin separating Trump and now-President Joe Biden.

“If we unite, we are unstoppable,” Trump told a crowd split between Libertarians and Trump supporters. “You have to combine with us.”

In response, the Washington Hilton ballroom erupted in boos. Trump was met with a chant to “debate” Libertarian candidates, and every time Trump fans in the room tried to start a “We want Trump” chant, libertarians yelled “End the Fed,” referring to the Federal Reserve.

“If he thinks he is going to win our nomination, he’s more delusional than I thought,” said Chase Oliver, one of the presidential candidates for the Libertarian Party, at a press conference after Trump spoke.

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Trump did extend a few olive branches to the third party, pledging to commute the sentence of Ross Ulbricht — the creator of Silk Road, an online marketplace for illegal drugs and other illicit goods — and appoint a Libertarian to his cabinet and senior government roles.

But those promises did not subdue the crowd.

After Libertarian Party presidential candidate Michael Rectenwald said in opening remarks that Libertarians “have major differences” with Trump and that the former president had “violated the basic premises of libertarianism,” he was confronted by a pro-Trump chant from the back of the room. But Trump’s fans were far outnumbered.

Still, if Trump’s appearance rankled many Libertarian Party members, it also offered them a rare, high-profile opportunity to air the party’s concerns. As Trump spoke, hundreds of delegates held “Free Ross” signs, referring to Ulbricht, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2015. Trump drew cheers when he committed to pardoning Ulbricht on his first day in office, and again when he spoke of ending foreign “regime change” wars — one of the few policy planks he shares with Libertarians.

But the evening was dominated by animosity toward Trump and his allies.

When Utah Sen. Mike Lee, a libertarian-leaning Republican, asked people to support Trump at the end of his opening remarks, he was met with a round of boos.

Both Trump and Biden were invited to speak at the Libertarian Party’s national convention, organizers said, but only Trump accepted.

His speech, in a prime time slot Saturday night, served as counterprogramming to Kennedy, who blistered the former president in his remarks the previous afternoon and appealed to some Libertarians because of his opposition to pandemic-era lockdowns.

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But Trump didn’t mention Kennedy at all in his speech. Instead, he ended his remarks by telling Libertarians that “you can either nominate or give us your votes.”

“We want Libertarian votes,” he said. “Don’t waste your vote.”

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