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The 2024 Libertarian Party Convention was Wild as Oliver, who Cost the Republicans Control of the Senate in 2022, Beats RFK and Trump for 2024 Libertarian Nomination

by Neal Dikeman

It ended as a brokered convention with a compromise center left and right wing Presidential/VP split ticket for the second straight cycle, after former President Donald Trump and Robert F Kennedy, Jr both came to an opposing party’s convention soliciting a nomination, for the first time in US history.  They were eliminated after - surprisingly it seems only to them -spectacularly failing to even reach the 3% vote threshold on first ballot.  As a result, media had a field day at RFK and Trump’s expense, and 38 year old former Libertarian Nominee for US Senator for Georgia, the openly gay millennial activist Chase Oliver who cost Republicans control of the Senate in 2022, beat RFK and Trump and multiple right wing and center candidates for the Libertarian Party nomination.  He faces President Biden, former President Donald Trump, Independent and Democratic nominee runner up Robert F Kennedy, Jr. and Dr. Jill Stein a repeat Green Party nominee credited with costing Hillary Clinton the 2016 election, on most November ballots.


The Libertarian Party National Convention began with no strong cross-over candidate in 2024 after Congressman Justin Amash, the former small government Republican and highest Libertarian office holder in recent years announced he was again forgoing the LP Presidential race this time to make a highly publicized run at the open Michigan Senate seat in the Republican primary.  Former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee had sought the LP Nomination in 2020, while Libertarian 2016 VP Nominee Governor William Weld ran for the Republican Nomination and Amash’s similarly flirted with the running before declining to amidst a vicious internal convention battle.  This led to 1996 Libertarian VP Nominee Clemson professor Dr. Jo Jorgensen winning the nomination with right of center podcaster Spike Cohen as VP in a split ticket.   2024 saw 7 internal party campaigns entering a wide open convention after battling at state conventions and party meetings for delegates for months including:  Chase Oliver, left of center former LP Georgia Senate Nominee in 2022, tech entrepreneur and Friend Finder cofounder Lars Mapstead, and a group of right of center wing caucus internal activist candidates including runner-up Michael Rectenwald, eventual VP Nominee Mike Ter Maat, and 2022 runner-up candidate Jacob Hornberger.


At the last minute the controversial Libertarian National Committee Party Chair, paralegal Angela McArdle, in a successful attempt to survive her own removal amidst the party’s infighting and falling fortunes under her leadership, invited the Democratic Presidential candidate runner-up Robert F Kennedy Jr, now running as an Independent, and the presumed Republican nominee President Donald Trump, to the LP convention to solicit Libertarian voters for the general election.  Both attempted to seek the Libertarian Party nomination.  The move to invite non Libertarian candidates was not popular among many delegates to say the least.  Apparently per party insider social media posts

McArdle had made promises to the Trump campaign that Trump would secure the nomination or an endorsement.  Kennedy had openly flirted with the nomination in the Spring in discussions with McArdle in order to secure ballot access, but had failed to build Libertarian grassroots party support. The Trump campaign has been concerned about Kennedy’s rise and was seeking to blunt Kennedy’s edge with the notoriously tricky libertarian swing voters in the general election.  Kennedy’s speech was well delivered and mostly respectfully received, though Trump, clearly expecting a friendly reception, struggled, as he lashed out at voters and cut his speech short at 34 minutes after a poor reception amongst libertarians over his populist policies.  Both Kennedy and Trump declined to debate the Libertarian Nominee, Oliver, probably a good idea, as Trump surrogate Vivek Ramaswamy struggled to win support in a debate against the party VP candidate the day before, mortgage broker and right wing party activist Clint Russell, who lost the VP race the next day in any event.


Trump proved unable to get the votes for even a nomination from the floor after asking for them in his speech to delegates, with the party Chair Angela McArdle who invited him actually ruling he was ineligible on technical grounds.  Trump received a total of 6 votes on the first ballot at a 1,000 person convention as a write-in: 5 votes more than Stormy Daniels, and 13 less than Kennedy.  Kennedy was eliminated on the first ballot with 2% after getting the 10 delegates support needed in a poorly planned late play for the nomination - the Kennedy campaign quite erroneously assumed they had at least 20% support of delegates for the first ballot according to party insiders.  Both Trump and Kennedy were eliminated on first ballot, and received a single write-in vote on the winning 6th ballot.  Welcome to convention politics.


After a vicious, largely five-way 7 round nomination battle, where four right of center candidates and two center and center left candidates split the wings support for several rounds, internal activist Chase Oliver won.  Oliver, whose 2022 GA Senate run is credited with costing the Republicans a key seat and control of the US Senate, handily survived a last minute 7th ballot push for None of the Above, after he eliminated the leading right of center candidate in round 6.  Oliver won in a brokered convention after the leading right of center candidate Michael Rectenwald lost the support of a key block of swing center and right of center delegates when the third place candidate Mike Ter Maat chose to switch to Oliver over Rectenwald for a VP slot offered him by each of the two leading tickets.  Rectenwald had been leading on each ballot until then but struggled to consolidate the right wing field and was deeply unpopular with the left and center of the party, viewed as “MAGA light” and unwilling to work with the left and center of the party.  His post loss statement, and a number of intraparty social media battles, indicate the right wing of the party which is unhappy with the nomination of Oliver over largely culture war issues, may splinter, despite having won the Party Chair at two conventions, as the wing again lost the Presidential nomination for two full cycles to the Libertarian center left largely from struggles to field strong candidates with broader appeal.  After losing key votes on the first day, the right wing of the party was however able to retain control of much of the party apparatus following missteps by the left and center coalitions on the convention floor, per party insiders.  The party delegate bases were fairly evenly split, with control shifting throughout the convention as delegates came and went. The tone was set for the fighting as the convention started with a brutal credentialing battle on the first day when the party Secretary, who had led a lawsuit against one state party in 2023, led an unsuccessful effort to unseat a number state delegations on technical grounds that were viewed as unfriendly to the right wing leadership and Presidential candidates.  At the end, both wings claimed some wins and suffered setbacks, a normal occurrence in a party that has been a “big tent” party between two major factional wings for decades.


Media coverage of the convention was sensational, as journalists had a field day with the novelty of Kennedy and Trump soliciting a third party nomination and then struggling with libertarian voters they erroneously thought would welcome them with open arms.  Both the RFK and Trump campaign approaches appear to have backfired, with unforced errors delivering an embarrassment to their campaigns in high profile losses to an unknown third party candidate, and resulting significant positive press for a third party that major candidates usually try to ignore in a bid to limit its candidates’ air time.  But oddities and unforced errors may just be the true political theme of the messy third party heavy 2024 Presidential race. 


 

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