Bob Barr will not be President of the United States.
The former congressman from Georgia became the nominee of the Libertarian Party this weekend, and proclaimed himself a “competitor” who’s “in it to win it.” But he has to know that he has no chance of winning it.
Although I’m happy to see a candidate willing to speak out on civil liberties issues — particularly Barr’s change of mind regarding the Patriot Act, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and the Failed War On Drugs — the fact is that no third-party candidate has a chance of beating the Democrat and Republican in the race, regardless of who they are.
The reason is simple: money.
While Barr may have the support of the Reason magazine crowd, he’ll never raise the tens of millions of dollars necessary to truly compete on a national scale, and without that, he won’t be able to buy anywhere near the huge amounts of television and radio time that Obama and McCain will. He also won’t get the platform to challenge them during the debates unless he garners enough support to cross the 15% threshold in national polls, which no candidate from outside the Big Two Parties has done since Ross Perot.
Barr says, “I certainly have no intention of being a spoiler,” but that may be exactly the role he ends up playing. In a race between two candidates who claim to appeal to independents, and who will depend on them for the swing votes so crucial to the race, Barr could attract a few percentage points worth of votes. If that support comes from divided Republicans who don’t want to hold their nose and vote for their party’s standard-bearer, he may have the same affect on McCain as Ralph Nader did on Al Gore in 2000 — just enough of a distracting nuisance to decide the whole thing, if it’s close.
The problem with third-party candidates is that they appeal to disaffected voters with widely varying agendas, who tend not to vote with any single voice. It’ll be interesting to see how Barr’s core conservatism meshes with the Libertarian movement, and whether its followers will become his followers.
At the very least, Barr may serve as the voice for a growing number of Americans who still want less nanny government, less fundamentalist intrusion on our lives, better protections for our civil liberties, and respect for The Bill Of Rights above all else.