Bob Barr's entry into the 2008 prez-stakes is generating more buzz than Mike Gravel's Libertarian conversion, less buzz than Ralph Nader's latest launch of the Ralph Nader Party. Jim Antle has a good rundown of the man's career and some predictions of what could happen.
Ron Paul won 0.5 percent of the vote as the Libertarian nominee in 1988. Pat Buchanan, one of the most famous conservatives in America, won 0.42 percent as the Reform Party candidate in 2000. Both faced resistance within the parties that nominated on account of their more conventionally conservative positions. John Schmitz, a sitting Republican congressman, managed just 1.4 percent as the standard-bearer for George Wallace's American Independent Party in 1972.
To find counterexamples, one must go back to Wallace himself in 1968 and Ross Perot in the 1990s. Neither man had very strong conservative credentials. Perot actually did better among independents and moderate Republicans than conservatives. But the right remembers Perot as the man who helped elect Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, just as the left blames Ralph Nader for Al Gore's defeat in 2000. If the McCain-Obama/McCain-Clinton is close, some of the prodigal Republicans Barr is counting on may well return home on Election Day.
More takes from Tom Tancredo:
Despite Barr's immigration stands, Tancredo said he could not support him because of his foreign policy stands, including "a blind spot on radical Islam." He added that he believes Barr's candidacy is a serious threat to Republican chances in November, because it could siphon off conservative voters who are skeptical of McCain.
Which segues nicely to Matt Yglesias:
I think there will probably be a bunch of voters who don't much like the McCain Perpetual War agenda but who also think that at the end of the day Barack Obama's a liberal and they're not not. In theory, at least, there's room for a sort of John Anderson figure and you could see Barr playing that role.
John Anderson's not the guy you want to think of here, as he pulled most of his votes from Carter and handed at least 6 states to Reagan. I think Tancredo's on to something: The immigration issue has the potential to be a fulcrum for Barr in a way it wasn't for Paul. (It's still an issue that a minority of voters obsess over, but those who do no longer have a choice between 6 border hawk Republicans like they did in the primaries. The vote's not going to dilute.)