Why the Libertarians Might be Important This Year

Posted by Mike Merritt in Election 2008 on

The results are in, and one things that’s not quite so surprising has happened: Bob Barr won the nomination for the Libertarian Party. It was widely speculated in the media that this would happen, but nobody who is actually paying attention (read: not the MSM) wanted to say anything until it did.

So, Barr is the candidate. I think a lot of his win has to do with the fact that he’s the more well known candidate nationally. His prominence in the Clinton impeachment and Defense of Marriage acts will set him on the national stage where Mary Ruwart just would not be recognizable. Now, having a familiar face isn’t everything. Just look at Barack Obama. But, Obama got his start in 2007, and I don’t think six months is enough time for Ruwart to criss-cross the nation in an attempt to show people who she is. If the Libertarians want a snowball’s chance in hell of getting any percent of the vote, they needed somebody who already has a recognizable face. That aside, their candidate can focus their time on showing why they’re different than the other candidates, not spend time on a PR tour.

That said, I’m not convinced that this is the year of the Libertarian Party. They may make it on to the national stage, but their candidate is not going to become President. No more than any of the Independents I keep profiling. Yet, I think the Libertarians have a chance to make an impact this year, and nominating Barr might have just helped that chance.

Imagine is the Libertarians could make enough of a showing nationally that they could get themselves into the general election debates. Right now, they’re on the ballots for about half the states, but that number is expected to go up. I think this will be easier to do with such a well known candidate, than say, if Mary Ruwart was the nominee. If Barr and the Libertarians could make enough of a showing, and perhaps get themselves into debates, they might having an effect on the general election not seen since Ross Perot was on the ballot in 1992.

The media likes to say a Barr ticket could potentially knock out John McCain, especially since Barr was formerly a Republican, but that remains to be seen. It could potentially happen, but only if the Libertarians organize enough to make a showing.

However, Barr does have some baggage that could hurt him. Even though he’s now changed a lot of his positions, he used to be one of the most conservative Republicans. He did lead the charge to get Clinton impeached, and was the author of the Defense of Marriage Act. Those who like to attack for “flip-flopping” positions could damage his campaign. In this case, a Ruwart nomination would have been better, as she’d be seen as more consistent.

I think we’ll know a lot more once the Libertarian VP candidate is announced. I personally think that if the Libertarians want to be serious about getting voters, they’ll pick Ruwart. She’s a longtime Ron Paul ally, and say what you want about his supporters, but they make up a pretty large group of people. That’s saying something when a group outside the Democrats and Republicans have had such a large effect on this year’s election. A Barr/Ruwart ticket, with the support of Ron Paul when he inevitably takes his losses at the Republican convention could potentially make a big impact on election day.  However, with Ruwart underperforming last night, and Root supporting Barr, that’s how it could end up going.

All this remains to be seen though, but that’s what I think.

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