I've asked for comment on Mike Gravel's tentative Libertarian Party run for president from the campaigns of George Phillies, Steve Kubby, and Wayne Allyn Root, and I'm posting their statements here.
UPDATE: From Wayne Allyn Root:
Gravel is in no way, shape or form a Libertarian. He's just a big government, big-spending, redistribute the wealth, liberal- big difference. He's clearly stumbled into the wrong party. Worse, he's a Green Party supporter and potential candidate as well. The Green Party is not in any way compatible with the Libertarian Party. They are polar opposites of the political spectrum.
On Gravel's name recognition: I'm impressed and respectful of any former or present U.S. Senator. But his name recognition is near zero. When was he last in the news? I've have yet to find one person I know that has heard of him. My educated guess is that being a Senator from Alaska is a lot like being the Maytag repairman- lonely and anonymous!
I would argue after my thousands of hours on national TV and millions of calls from American male sports fans and gamblers, my name recognition is far higher. If Mr Gravel wants to walk around Las Vegas casinos and sportsbooks with me during March Madness- I'll prove that point!
But having said all that, I welcome the Senator to the race, just as I welcomed Ron Paul a few months ago (if he had chosen to join the LP race). I welcome anyone and everyone to debate me in front of Libertarians and American voters in general. So far, I've won every single Libertarian Party debate at every LP convention that featured a Presidential Preference Poll after the debate. My winning percentage is an impressive 100%. I'm also the only LP candidate with major mainstream media attention- my guess is Gravel will have a hard time matching my media success. Next week I'll be on The Mancow Show and The WGN Morning TV show in Chicago during my Chicago campaign tour. None of my LP Presidential opponents COMBINED can match the media attention and credibility I bring to the LP. Lots of people talk- few deliver on their promises. I promised to be the most high-profile LP Presidential candidate ever. I've walked the walk- and I'm just getting started. I've been called a "Ronald Reagan-esque communicator for the LP." I believe that is the most important quality by far for any third party can ask for in a Presidential candidate in a sound bite world aimed at the MTV generation.
From George Phillies:
I am delighted to welcome Senator Gravel to the Libertarian party. I have met him before. In 2006, Gravel appeared at the LPNH State convention. As the two Presidential candidates in attendance, he and I presented against each other for delegate support from the LPNH. I won the delegate. I look forward to debating Senator Gravel again.It is highly problematic for someone to jump parties and immediately be given the Presidential nomination. We welcome converts to the choir; we don't make them Chief Deacon. Some of Gravel's core positions, e.g., universal single-payer health care, simply are not Libertarian. There is no way to sell those stands to Libertarian convention delegates. Correspondingly, Gravel has no way to win the Libertarian Presidential nomination.
Gravel presents a different problem for each candidate. Phillies, who ran a fairly solid House race in Massachusetts ten years ago, has argued that he has more campaign experience than the rest of the field. Root has argued that he has the most name ID—he's also done far more TV and media than any LP hopeful since Harry Browne. Kubby has actually seen real political success as a medical marijuana activist. But Gravel, by dint of his 12 years in the U.S. Senate and minor national recognition from this campaign, draws more attention than any of them. Gravel's decision sparked coverage in The Washington Post, The New York Times, the AP, and Fox News.
Would any of this translate into attention for the LP if Gravel should win the party's nomination? (It would have to be won at the convention, and while I would put Gravel's speechmaking abilities in the top tier of LP candidates, he has no organization to speak of.) I'm skeptical. I've seen how little attention Cynthia McKinney has garnered in her Green Party presidential bid. And if Nader runs a bid separate from the Greens, as he did in 2004, you'll have three candidates slicing an outsider, anti-war protest vote that was thin to begin with.
Until candidates weigh in, there's some tug-of-war happening in the Gravel comment sections. Reaction across the blogs is fairly negative.
In his announcement to supporters of his intentions to run as an LP presidential candidate, he writes, "The fact is, the Democratic Party today is no longer the party of FDR. It is a party that continues to sustain war, the military-industrial complex and imperialism — all of which I find anathema to my views."
This is just hysterical. Of course, FDR created the military-industrial complex. To the extent the Democrats are no longer the party of FDR, that is a good thing—and indeed, one could argue the GOP became the party of FDR with Nixon, Reagan and the two Georges Bush.
Libertarians have a serious image problem, and people like Gravel and Ron Paul have not helped. Besides that, the Randians (oh no a word I just made up!) are in that "big tent" and stink the whole thing up. People who are serious but realistic about small government and civil liberties want nothing to do with the kooks. It's one thing to say, for instance, that the Commerce Clause is a strict limit on congressional power; it's another to formulate a reasonable interpretation of that provision while dealing with and changing the system currently in place. Getting rid of the FDA overnight = kooky; not just kooky, but intellectually immature. Criticism is not the final step in political theory, and if libertarians cannot construct a viable ideological system from the rubble of rejected ideas, then they offer nothing worth overhauling our government for.
Andre Walker at PeachPundit:
I don't mean to knock the Libertarian Party because I believe that we need more than just two political parties engaged in the debate over the direction or our nation. However, with Mike Gravel now in the Libertarian Party's ranks, it makes it a bit more difficult for the Libertarians to be considered as a viable third option for disenchanted Republicans and Democrats. You need more Bob Barrs and Neal Boortzs and less Mike Gravels.
I think the Ron Paul experience—millions of dollars for about 5 percent of the primary vote—has brought opinion of this kind of campaign back down to terra firma.