Former Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson is stepping into the Democratic primary, vowing his support for Tulsi Gabbard amid rumors that she could stake a third-party run.
Johnson spoke in New Hampshire ahead of Tuesday’s primary, telling a volunteer for the Hawaii congresswoman’s campaign that he would do whatever he could to help her campaign.
“Hey, I was asked a long time ago to endorse Tulsi, and I did, and you know, whatever I can do — I’m not active on social media — but I did endorse her, and you know, whatever quote you wanna attribute to me to say vote for her, you got it,” Johnson said.
The meeting sparked rumors of Gabbard seeking a third-party run for president, an idea that Hillary Clinton appeared to raise ahead of the start of the Democratic primary. The 2016 presidential candidate suggested that Gabbard was being “groomed” as a third-party candidate who would serve as a spoiler to help re-elect Donald Trump. Johnson had one of the more successful third-party runs in recent presidential election history, capturing more than 3 percent of the national vote.
Gabbard pushed aside the rumors at the time, saying she did not have any intention of launching a third-party run for president. Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, also tried to put rumors of a third-party run to rest, noting that she had pledged not to run if she does not win the Democratic nomination.
“Tulsi Gabbard and every single candidate running for president understands that it’s not about them,” Perez said, via the Associated Press.“It’s about something much bigger,” he added.
Gabbard, who languished near the bottom of primary polls over the course of the last few months, has been to a rough start now that the voting has begun. She took no delegates in the Iowa caucus and zero percent of the final vote after backers of candidates with below 15 percent support were re-allocated to other candidates. Gabbard is predicted to perform equally poorly in New Hampshire, with polls showing her near the bottom of the pack.
The Hawaii congresswoman has drawn controversy in the past for her divisive stances. She quit her post at the Democratic National Committee in 2016 in protest of the treatment of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and has been the most willing of major candidates to make overtures to Republican voters, appearing frequently on Fox News. She also refused to vote in favor of Trump’s impeachment, instead voting “present.”
Gabbard drew more controversy when she sued Hillary Clinton for defamation after Clinton’s apparent claim that Gabbard was being groomed by Russia to serve as a spoiler to help re-elect Trump.