When former Rep. Bob Barr arrives in Kansas City on Saturday for the Heartland Libertarian Conference, organizers expect him to launch an exploratory committee for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination. Barr is meeting with his political team on Friday to firm up plans. Right now, he's expected to fly into the city at about noon Saturday and address the conference in the early afternoon.
The Barr launch is getting to be an open secret among conference-goers. Advocacy Ink, the firm that handles Barr's public relations, is advertising the speech to local and national reporters. Mike Ferguson, the de jure organizer of the conference, is scrambling to deal with a crush of new media requests.
"It doesn't take much to put two and two together," said Ferguson. "You don't do this unless you're making the announcement."
The rest of the LP's field, including new candidate Mike Gravel, will participate in a debate before Barr's speech. Ferguson doesn't expect Barr to participate, but doesn't think that will matter. "Once he gets in, to call him the frontrunner would be an understatement," Ferguson said. An advisor in Barr's camp agreed, but averred that Barr doesn't yet have enough support among an expected 800+ LP delegates to win on the first ballot.
There is no truth to the rumor that Barr will ditch the party and run as an independent. "We're on the ballot in 45 states," said one organizer at the conference. "Why would he throw away two years of work with the party to run an ego trip campaign with no ballot access? That story doesn't make sense." Lisa Edelstein in Barr's office also rejected the "independent" rumor. "If he does decide to run, he will run as a Libertarian candidate," she said. (The position in Barr's office is that he is "considering running and is now making up his mind.")
There's also no truth to the rumor that Ron Paul will endorse Barr, although both men will appear at an April 15 event in D.C. (UPDATE: It's on Barr's public schedule, but his campaign team will be drafting a solid schedule on Friday.)
So, how's this mesh with what Barr told me in 2006?
I’m contemplating no runs for any office. I’m delighted to be asked to work in this capacity for the Libertarian Party, and I’m going to work on range of issues. But I’m not a candidate.
Obviously, that's no longer operative. What I haven't yet figured out is whether Barr was mulling a run for the past two years, whether his friends in the party and the Ron Paul rEVOLution changed his mind, or whether there was some combination of the two.
UPDATE: Barr just wrapped an interview with Sean Hannity, and I want the transcript before I quote anything, but the highlights were Hannity accusing Barr of wanting to legalize crack and elect Hillary Clinton, and Barr coming out for medical marijuana.
UPDATE III: Stacy McCain has Barr-on-Hannity goodness here.