Then Johnson went on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." And it all came tumbling down. Here's the exchange between Johnson and Mike Barnicle:
BARNICLE: "What would you do, if you were elected, about Aleppo?"JOHNSON: "About?"BARNICLE: "Aleppo."JOHNSON: "And what is Aleppo?"
Aleppo, as you almost certainly know, is a city in Syria that has been at the heart of that country's ongoing civil war. It has been the epicenter of the refugee crisis. It is also the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.
Given all of that, not knowing what it is comes very, very close to disqualifying yourself when running for the highest office in the country. Which is very unfortunate if you are Gary Johnson, desperate for even the slightest crack in the electoral door to push your way through.
Johnson quickly and self-deprecatingly apologized for his mental slip. He insisted it was a misunderstanding that led him to his slow-motion car wreck of an answer.
Here's the thing: If you are a third-party candidate, you might get one or, at most, two moments in the course of a campaign in which you move from the fringes of the coverage to the center of it. You must capitalize on those opportunities. It's your only chance to make the debates. (A candidate needs to average 15 percent in a select group of national polls to qualify.) And if you can't make the debates, you don't have a chance.
Johnson got that moment in the sun this past week. But it was for all the wrong reasons. His support won't disappear entirely because, well, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are still the alternatives. But any possibility of a Johnson surge just disappeared.
Gary Johnson, for swinging, missing and then injuring yourself while falling over at the one pitch you might get to hit all election, you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something.
Each week, I award the Worst Week in Washington to an inhabitant of Planet Beltway who stands out for all the wrong reasons. Email me with your nominees.