Ron Paul was never going to drop his campaign before the primary in Pennsylvania, the state where he grew up. Sure enough, the Paul '08 team is out with a schedule: he'll be hitting the state twice this week and twice next week for "freedom rallies." Some time in between those events we might see something a lot more impactful: the potential launch of Bob Barr '08. He'll be speaking at the Heartland Libertarian Conference and rumors of an announcement are going around.
Both men think the Ron Paul rEVOLution is still kicking, and worth continuing. They're offering two different methods for doing so. Paul's method is to continue a John Ashbrook/Pete McCloskey kind of challenge in the GOP and get the party and the media to notice. Right now, it's not working. No one much cares that McCain is getting fewer votes in these final primaries than Bush got in 2000 after wrapping up his nomination. It's simply not clear what a Paul vote means. Is it an anti-McCain vote? An anti-war vote? An anti-immigration vote? Paul's lost the chance to define what, exactly, you signal by supporting him.
If Barr runs, he's going to have a clearer message. It's laid out here: a vote for Barr is anti-pre-emptive war, pro-privacy, against the drift of the GOP and of politics writ large. The bet is that the GOP will only take heed if it loses an election because a candidate running on those issues helps elect a Democrat. What's the evidence that this could work? Yes, George Wallace's 1968 campaign spurred the GOP to take the Southern position on civil and states' rights, and Ralph Nader's 2000 campaign against "corporate Democrats" looks awfully influential in this election where even Bill Clinton's wife is promising card check for unions and a "time out" on trade deals. But those changes had a lot to do with 1)their political popularity and 2)the work of activists inside the parties.
I have no idea how big a Barr/LP vote could be… the only inkling is this poll by Rasmussen taken at the height of the Ron Paul campaign, which had 8 percent of voters going for Paul in a 4-way race with the Democratic and Republican nominees and Ralph Nader. I do know that a defection by about 2-3 percent of McCain voters in Nevada, New Mexico and Iowa, if every other state voted the way it did in 2004, would throw the election into the House of Representatives, where the Democrat would obviously win.