Friday, May 02, 2008


A story that ran in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer:

Is this man John McCain's worst nightmare?

Bob Barr, former GOP congressman from Georgia, is an all-but-announced presidential candidate -- as a Libertarian.

The possibility of a run by Barr has sent shudders through the mainstream of the Republican party.

Barr, who will probably not declare his intentions for several days, has already been labeled a "spoiler." ...

Republicans may have good cause to worry.

A run by Barr could be to John McCain "what Ralph Nader was to Al Gore -- ruinous," wrote George Will in
Newsweek. Some party experts believe Barr could siphon off essential conservative votes from Sen. John McCain, about whom many rightward voters have been less than enthusiastic....

I don't see it.

First of all, Nader was a star. He was an aging star years past his prime, but he was a big enough name to get media attention, and a lot of people cast votes for him in part as a lifetime achievement award. Bob Barr had a brief moment in the spotlight, but, unlike Nader, he's never really been a star.

(You can become a star in the course of a campaign -- Barack Obama and Ron Paul did so this time around -- but there's no evidence that Barr has either Obama's charisma or Paul's Howard Beale mad-prophet appeal.)

Beyond that, you have to realize that most Nader voters in 2000 felt nostalgia for (or wished they hadn't been born too late to experience) the '60s days when lefties fought the system from the outside. The lost glory days for most right-wingers were when they saw themselves dominating the system -- led by Reagan, or by Gingrich in Congress, or maybe by Bush in his first term. Most right-wingers don't want to stick a thumb in the system's eye -- they want to be the system.

I could be wrong, but I'm not expecting much help from Barr. It's hard to imagine Barr going from right-wing college campus to right-wing college campus, packing halls and winning the enthusiastic backing of right-wing gospel and country music superstars. It's hard to imagine the press accusing McCain of violating his principles by refusing to debate Barr. It's hard to imagine the "liberal media" acting as an adjunct to the Democratic Party by lavishing attention on Barr, or Democrats being savvy enough to help fund his campaign.


Almost forgot to mention the most obvious difference between Nader '00 and Barr '08: Nader, for all his prattle about challenging "the two-party duopoly," was clearly targeting Al Gore, whom the press despised. The press, to say the least, does not despise John McCain.

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