I arrived in Denver at 1:20 p.m. local time, delayed by a stomach-churning, plane-rattling tornado (the rattling was from dodging the twister, not from getting sucked in), and caught one of the many airport-to-convention shuttles. Five LP delegates sat with me: Two for Barr, two for Ruwart, and one undecided. One Barr delegate would be happy with Root, and one Ruwart delegate* was intrigued by Gravel. Without getting too Thomas Friedman-y and imparting the wisdom of the ages to people I shared a ride with, there's no reason yet to doubt that those four candidates are in the top tier, and George Phillies and Steve Kubby are staying somewhat credible.
Happily, most of our conversation wasn't about the presidential race. Robert Latham, a Utah delegate (for Ruwart) and attorney, regaled us with stories of his state's draconian DUI and drug laws. For example: What happens if you tell a cop you're sober now but you toked a month ago? He can take you in: the drug's "in your system." Latham has taken six cases to jury, aquitted four clients and gotten partial acquittals for the others.
We turned to the speaker schedule, and couldn't figure out if Richard Hoagland—an author who argues that NASA is covering up evidence of dead civilizations found with their probes—was an official convention speaker. Hoagland, Latham mentioned, had really had an impact on Utah House candidate Joe Buchman. "He went to one of those conferences and came back convinced."
Latham read my expression: I was wincing. "You'll meet him," Latham said. "He's not a kook. He talks about this as a secrecy issue, in a relatable way."
"No matter how he talks about it," I said, "can't the two parties use it to marginalize him? I mean, how is it playing."
"It's playing pretty well!" Latham thought about it. "The polls aren't great, though. We just got the first one in from the district and we've got... zero percent. I was hoping to start off better than that."
I wouldn't have thought much of the conversation, but about a minute later we rounded 46th onto Brighton and saw a panhandler on the left side of the road. His sign: SPACE SHIP BROKEN. NEED MONEY FOR SPARE PARTS.
*I'll refer to supporters of Candidate X as "candidate X delegates," but obviously, nothing is binding them officially to their choice.