On Friday, former Gov. Gary Johnson offered a guarantee.
“If Mitt Romney wants to be a part of the administration, that would be a guarantee.”
The comments came at Friday’s joint Deseret News-KSL editorial board meeting with Johnson and Bill Weld.
I asked Johnson what role, if any, Romney might play in a Johnson-Weld administration. Although the Libertarian nominee seemed to doubt whether Romney would really be interested, he said the former Republican presidential nominee would be free to, in essence, choose his own adventure.
“I think [the position] would be for Mitt Romney to decide and I say that with reverence to his skills as a business person and having run the Olympics.”
While critics will undoubtedly see this as pandering to a state where Romney remains popular and where undecided voters are still searching for an alternative, it is hard not to view the comments as anything but the spontaneous response to direct questioning, rather than canned or calculated lines.
Weld, who, like Romney, was a Republican governor in Massachusetts, chimed in, adding, “I personally think he would be great at [secretary of] defense as well as state.”
Weld quickly noted that he had not discussed this with Romney. Yet, the possibility of such a conversation is not far-fetched. Weld and Romney are close. Their friendship is born of both being Republican politicians in the solidly blue Bay State. And, during this election cycle, the two have been in communication.
Johnson, for his part, went on to praise yet another political juggernaut in Utah: “I always thought that Gov. Mike Leavitt would be an ideal secretary of state.”
Weld concurred, calling him “my favorite,” and saying “I nominated him for president.” Johnson then exclaimed, “I did too, I did too!”
“I said to Mike Leavitt in New York,” Johnson continued, “Mike, if you ever decided to run for president, you’re my guy.”
The remarks came in the midst of a wide-ranging discussion about the candidates' views on fiscal policy (they want "a balanced budget") to ISIS ("ISIS' days are numbered") to how they would handle both religious freedom ("Utah has had some really landmark legislation regarding religious freedom") and marijuana ("marijuana policy would get left to the states").
So could guaranteeing Romney and Leavitt a role in the Johnson-Weld administration have an effect in Utah or even nationally?
Not so fast.
Boyd Matheson, the director of the Sutherland Institute and the former chief of staff for Sen. Mike Lee, points out that vice presidential picks rarely have “an impact on a voter's decision,” let alone Cabinet members.
Matheson also notes that “Governor Leavitt should be part of any transition and governing strategy team” given his recent experience leading the aborted Romney 2012 transition team.
And, yet, given polling that shows Johnson at 16 percent in Utah with fully 22 percent still undecided or writing in names (perhaps even names like Mitt Romney), there are far worse strategies to pursue in the Beehive State than guaranteeing positions for politicians like Romney and Leavitt.
Both Johnson and Weld, however, were quick to acknowledge that it would be “a little presumptuous” to approach Romney about a role in their administration at this point.
“Hey, Mitt, we want you to endorse us,” Weld said, improvising the hypothetical conversation out loud. “And by the way, how’d you like to be secretary of state?”
Hal Boyd is the opinion editor of the Deseret News.
Email: [email protected]