The former professional wrestler, Minnesota governor and host of the “Conspiracy Theories” TV program appeared Tuesday night for a panel discussion “The Nightly Show” to discuss the presidential race.
Host Larry Wilmore said the dynamics of the race suggested voters were attracted to “unlikely candidates” like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders — each of whom Ventura said had a real shot at winning.
“Trump because he’s got enough money to be able to run, and as much as you dislike him, one of the good things about him is he’s not subjected to the bribery that goes on,” Ventura said. “He’s doing it with his own money, so no one’s bribing him (and) there’s not the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain who controls him.”
Ventura pointed out that 64 percent — nearly two-thirds — of Americans did not vote in the last presidential election, which he said opened the door to some potential wackiness.
“When I ran in Minnesota, they pooh-poohed me, too,” he said. “But everywhere I went was like Bernie — show up to see him live, they’re voting for him. Because you can see them all on TV, but if you show up live, you’re voting for him. None of these other people are getting 20,000 to show up.”
Wilmore asked if the U.S. was at a historical moment that defied precedent, and Ventura interrupted comedian and co-panelist Kathleen Madigan — who compared Trump to other briefly attractive also-rans like Steve Forbes and Herman Cain.
“Let me throw one out for you to chew on,” Ventura said. “End of May, the Libertarians hold their convention, and they nominate who they want — (and) he might be sitting at the table.”
Ventura said he had not formally declared his intentions to run for president because he was “waiting to get the pikers out,” so he could focus his efforts on the last remaining rival and then “slide right in there” as the Libertarian Party nominee.
“Wait, this is your master plan?” Wilmore asked. “You’re counting on Trump to get there so you can out-Trump Trump?”
Ventura said he wanted Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush to be the nominees, because they offered a clearer shot for a third-party candidate.
“Imagine when people go in the voting booth, the disenchanted people, and they see these other Democrats and Republicans, and then all of a sudden they see Jesse Ventura,” he said.
However, Ventura said he would not join the Libertarians, even if they made him the party’s nominee — and the other panelists expressed serious doubts about his plans.
“Why would they agree to that?” Madigan said.
“Because they’re Libertarians — it’s liberty,” Ventura said.
“They know what I stand for,” he continued. “I will challenge the the American people to make history and elect the first president since George Washington, he’s the only one who does not belong to a political party.”
Watch the entire discussion posted online by Comedy Central: