Barr to woo Libertarian base for funds in presidential run
Bob Barr’s bid for the Libertarian presidential nomination will rely on tapping into his adopted party’s faithful to donate over the Internet and on their distaste for the ways of Washington.
The former Republican congressman from Georgia said he will set himself apart from the major parties by doing what those entrenched on Capitol Hill can’t — significantly downsize the government — and that he hasn’t given much thought about hurting the Republican Party’s nominee with his run.
Mr. Barr, 59, said candidates have often “whined” about losing, blaming it on Ralph Nader or someone other than themselves, but that his goal is to offer an alternative to presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain and the two remaining Democrats, Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“I will use the presidency to shrink government in its power over citizens and its cost to them, while McCain would just nibble at the edges of federal spending and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have platforms to increase the size and power of government over individuals,” he said after officially announcing his candidacy at the National Press Club on May 12.
Mr. Barr said he thinks the fundraising capabilities of the Internet can make a third-party candidate a contender.
“I’m relying on the Internet, on people who supported Ron Paul and others like them,” said Mr. Barr, who expects to win the nomination at the Libertarian National Convention later this month in Denver.
During his announcement, Mr. Barr was flanked by his wife, Jeri, and campaign manager Russell Verney, who worked on Ross Perot’s 1992 White House bid that netted 19 percent of the vote and that some Republicans blame for President George H.W. Bush’s loss.
Pollsters and political analysts are split on Mr. Barr’s impact in November.
Some predict that his third-party bid will cause a ripple that hurts neither party, but others say it will hurt Mr. McCain’s chances.
“It’s too early to tell what Barr’s impact will be,” said David Paleologos, Suffolk University political research director. “Some Democratic voters are defecting to Nader, and some Republican voters will leak to Barr. But we don’t know if he’ll make all 50 states’ ballots and where he might be a factor.”
Mr. Barr would not say which states he will target during the general election.
“Barr has the potential of winning over millions of conservatives who feel that John McCain does not want their votes,” Republican pollster Rick Shafton said. “The McCain forces will ignore the Barr campaign at their own risk.”
The 2004 Libertarian presidential candidate, Michael Badnarik, took less than 1 percent of the vote, placing fourth behind President Bush, Democrat John Kerry and independent Ralph Nader.
Among others seeking the nomination this year are former Democ- ratic presidential hopeful Mike Gravel, who switched his party affiliation to Libertarian; sports handicapper and television producer Wayne Allyn Root; and Libertarian Party activist Mary Ruwart.
But party officials consider Mr. Barr the front-runner because of the national profile he developed as a congressman from 1995 to 2003, and his role in impeaching President Clinton. He helped manage House Republicans’ impeachment case before the Senate.
Joining Mr. Barr on May 12 were some former campaigners for Mr. Paul, the Republican congressman from Texas who once ran for president as on the Libertarian ticket while still a Republican.
Mr. Paul raised record contributions from the Internet but lost the Republican nomination to Mr. McCain. Mr. Paul is technically still running for the Republican Party nomination, which won’t be formally awarded until delegates vote at the Sept. 1-4 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.
Mr. Barr said he still opposes abortion and the legalization or decriminalization of drugs, just as he did as a federal prosecutor during the Reagan administration and as a Republican in the U.S. House.
Some Libertarians hold the opposite view, arguing that it is not the business of the federal government.
Mr. Barr quit the Republican Party two years ago, saying he had grown disillusioned with its failure to shrink government and its willingness to scale back civil liberties in fighting terrorism. He has been particularly critical of Mr. Bush over the war in Iraq and says the administration is ignoring constitutional protections on due process and privacy.
He would begin withdrawing troops from Iraq and consider slashing spending at federal agencies such as the departments of education and commerce, as well as at overseas military bases.
The former U.S. attorney also said he would strictly enforce immigration laws.
“This notion that government owes something to people just because they’re here does not resonate with me,” he said. “This is not a charity.”
Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis doesn’t think much of Mr. Barr’s candidacy.
“He’s no Ron Paul and doesn’t have the resources to make the case for any protest vote. I don’t think the Ron Paul support is easily transferable. Without resources, Barr’s candidacy is nothing more than a name on the ballot.”
This story is based in part on wire service dispatches.
Diving in: Barr