Barr: McCain Bane or Obama Obstacle?
As Alex reports below, former Republican congressman Bob Barr has thrown his hat into the Libertarian Party nomination contest. Assuming Barr does secure the Libertarian nomination–a big assumption, given that the LP isn’t exactly known for picking the most electable presidential candidates–how much of an impact will Barr really have in November, and if so, on whom? Certainly the conventional wisdom is that LP candidates generally draw from Republicans more than Democrats, but would that hold in this election year?
One of Atlantic blogger Marc Ambinder’s correspondents suggests that presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama may face more of a challenge from Barr than John McCain will:
There is a line of thought to which i am tempted to subscribe at this early hour that Barr actually hurts Obama more than McCain. Most of the libertarian voters would probably be tempted to vote against McCain and the horrible Republican record on [the Iraq war and civil liberties] and if Obama was the only choice, Obama could get it (since he has actually pretty good on the narrow subject of civil liberties) which would be a way to secure those margins in the West to the Democratic party for quite a while.
It is difficult to know for sure where those voters would have gone but when a Republican constituency goes from swing voters with two choices to third-party leaners, it is a loss opportunity for Obama at the very least.
It seems more likely to me, however, that Barr’s appeal will largely be to social conservatives who remember his behavior in Congress more than his (partial) conversion to libertarian orthodoxy. That said, the continued acrimony in the Democratic primaries could drive at least some of the rump Clinton campaign’s supporters, who decades ago we might have called the “Reagan Democrats,” into Barr’s camp in November to Obama’s detriment, at least if the polls in states like West Virginia are to be believed.