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Trump campaign attempts to rally Libertarian support

By Ehren Wynder
Former President Donald Trump's campaign staff said it is reaching out to "Libertarians, Republicans, independents and everyone in between." File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
Former President Donald Trump's campaign staff said it is reaching out to "Libertarians, Republicans, independents and everyone in between." File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

May 25 (UPI) -- Former President Donald Trump is set to address the 2024 Libertarian National Convention Saturday in an attempt to court undecided voters.

Angela McArdle, chair of the Libertarian Party, said Trump accepted the party's invite to speak at the convention almost immediately. The party also invited Biden to speak, but did not receive an answer.

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Trump's Libertarian outreach follows weeks of intensified attacks against independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., whom Trump's advisers view as a potential hurdle to him taking the White House back from Joe Biden in November.

"We have to join with [Libertarians] because they get their 3% every year, no matter who's running," Trump said in a speech last week, "and we have to get that 3% because we can't take a chance on Joe Biden winning."

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Kennedy addressed the Libertarian convention on Friday, where he criticized both Trump and Biden but devoted most of his speech to attacking Trump for his COVID-19 policies, which he called "the greatest restriction on individual liberties this country has ever known."

He has said he believes he can find common ground with Libertarians on COVID, foreign policy and the environment.

"I think a lot of my philosophy and my approach, particularly environmental issues over the many years, my approach is a free-market approach, which appeals to Libertarians," Kennedy said in an interview with CNN. "I'm against war, which I think is another important issue for Libertarians. I support constitutional rights.

"President Trump dismantled our constitutional rights during COVID. So I think Libertarians are probably more inclined to support me if they follow their philosophies."

Trump could be in for a hostile reception on Saturday. Former GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy received boos from a crowd at the convention on Friday after urging them to support Trump.

"I'm speaking to you as a Libertarian at my own core. I have gotten to know Donald Trump over the course of the last several years and the last several months," Ramaswamy said.

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Several people in the audience on Friday could be heard hurling curses at Trump and the Republican Party.

D'Anne Welch, 73. A Libertarian supporter from Texas, told CNN that she's worried about the direction the party could go if it backs Trump. She said she considered voting for Biden to keep Trump from winning.

"He never should've been invited," Welch said of Trump.

Avi Rachlin, 22, of Michigan, told NBC News she voted for Trump in 2020 but plans to vote Libertarian in November.

"People say that a third party vote is a wasted vote. You're voting for the other team," she said. "And I don't see it that way. I think it sends a strong message of disapproval with the current contenders for both offices."

The Libertarian Convention's decision to host Trump and Kennedy comes at a time when the party struggles to maintain relevance. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson's 2016 run was the last time the party had a considerable factor in a presidential election.

McArdle said Trump's appearance at the convention would be a "real PR boost," but its unlikely he'll be able to garner support from attendees.

"These are people who spent thousands of dollars and devoted hundreds of hours to be here in support of their Libertarian candidates," McArdle said. "No one is worried about them flipping."

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Trump's campaign isn't necessarily going after die-hard Libertarians, but rather independent-minded voters who are dissatisfied with the two-party system.

"We are reaching out to Libertarians, Republicans, independents and everyone in between," Trump spokesperson Brian Hughes said.

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