Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Will Bob Barr's Libertarian Run Impact The Presidential Race?

Over the weekend, conservative--and occasionally colorful--former Georgia Republican representative Bob Barr earned the nomination of the Libertarian Party to run for President.

Barr has at least the potential to impact the presidential race come November, although had the Libertarians nominated Ron Paul the effect would likely be much greater.


The conventional wisdom is that Barr hurts the Republicans and John McCain more than the Democratic nominee. That's probably true. Indeed, since many Republicans seem to view McCain as nothing more than a warmed-over Democrat, a serious alternative candidate with solid libertarian value could prove quite appealing to some members of the GOP.


Will Barr run as a true Libertarian, or will he run as a true Republican? If you talk to some Republicans, they will say the real reason the party is doing so poorly is that it has abandoned it's own core principles. There's some truth to that, but that's not really why the party is doing so poorly--the real reason is incompetence, especially at the very top.


In any event, Barr--a disaffected Republican himself--may use the Libertarian platform to espouse a conservative philosophy that is more in tune with "traditional" GOP values, i.e., small government, low taxes, free markets. If he gets entangled in religious right "values" issues, however, he'll lose the support of true libertarians: yes, they believe in religious freedom, but that means not imposing evangelical beliefs on the rest of the population (which, we believe, is one reason the GOP has lost it's mojo).


There is certainly room in this country for a candidate or party that espouses reduced government spending, lower taxes, simpler regulation, extreme caution about engaging in foreign adventures, while also being relatively liberal on social issues.


Where would Barr have the biggest impact? Probably in the the mountain west, where many voters with libertarian tendencies have gone with the GOP in the past, only to be dissatisfied with the results. If Obama is the Democratic nominee, there are signs that he can make Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and perhaps a few other western states pretty competitive. If Barr siphons off 3-4% of McCain's vote in those states, things could get very interesting.


Barr might also have an impact in the upper south battleground states of Virginia and North Carolina, although the Republicans most unhappy with McCain in those states are social conservatives, not true libertarians.


For the Libertarian Party, Barr offers the potential for greater media exposure and fundraising appeal than some unknown party insider.


If we going to bet on it right now, however, we'd say Barr's impact will be pretty minimal. Now, ask us how many times we've been right this electoral season!

2 comments:

J. Tyler Ballance said...

Past Libertarian "impact"

2004 Badnarik: .32%

2000 Brown: .36%

1996 Brown: .5%

1992 Marrou .28%


Fair to project that Barr will poll less than .5%

Ben said...

It's not about how many votes they get, it's about raising awareness of the party and what it stands for.

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There is certainly room in this country for a candidate or party that espouses reduced government spending, lower taxes, simpler regulation, extreme caution about engaging in foreign adventures, while also being relatively liberal on social issues.
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Well said. The small government fiscal conservatives/social liberals (like myself) have no major party to call our own. When I go to the polls now, it's usually about who's going to choose Supreme Court justices for the next four years, since both parties have embraced big government and there's just a choice between big and bigger.