After we ran yesterday's rundown of the Libertarian Party race, I talked to Wayne Allyn Root, the oddsmaker/entrepreneur who's battling for the right-leaning/pragmatic/celebrity vote with Bob Barr. Root wanted to clear the record on one thing: He did not demand that Mary Ruwart exit the race after some people dug up an apparent defense of child porn from one of her books. "I was 10,000 feet in the air," Root explains, "on my way to the New York Libertarian convention. We were asked for a response and my campaign manager made incredibly bone-headed mistake." So, Root isn't asking Ruwart to quit the race. He just wants to defeat her.
Root disputed my assessment that Barr is leading the race (which I can see the Barr campaign, uh, appreciated), although he acknowledged that they're going after the same votes and that Barr's entrance has him working harder. "I've won most of the straw polls, but even if you look at most of the straw polls I haven't won, the combined support for Barr outmatches the support for the other candidates." He pointed at the New York Libertarian Convention's straw poll, which he did win with 28 votes to Barr's 20. Six other candidates split 47 votes. "If you choose me or Bob Barr, you'd never choose Ruwart. If Bob Barr were to not run, or to not make it on a second ballot, I think all his supporters quite naturally go to me."
Root does think Barr is going to run (he's got an exploratory committee right now), but questioned why he won't jump in now and start participating in party debates. "I think he's scared to debate me," Root said. Exhibit A: Barr gave an hour speech at the New York convention, skipped the debate where Root only got 15 minutes to speak, and at the end of it Root got more votes in the straw poll. "I didn't know anyone in the LP when I started this, but I head into those debates and I'm able to win over these crowds who want somebody who can communicate our message. He's going to count on the one debate at the convention in Denver, and maybe he's hoping I have an off night."
That's the crux of Root's message: He can communicate in a way LP candidates haven't for a long time. "Barry Goldwater was my hero," Root said. "He still is my hero. But Barry Goldwater lost in a landslide because he had no charisma. You take what he said and put it in the mouth of Ronald Reagan and you win in a landslide."
So what's Root's explanation for donating to Joe Lieberman? "It wasn't because I agreed with Joe Lieberman's philosophy," he said. "Somebody who invested a million dollars in one of my projects was a bundler for Lieberman and he asked me to donate to the campaign. I would have given George McGovern a check if somebody who'd made me a million dollars asked me to! Also, Lieberman, at that time, was an independent fighting the two parties. At that time I was a Republican thinking about leaving my party. I like maverick independents, and I always have. I'd have given to Jesse Ventura if he was running." But Root does not support the Iraq War and stopped using the slogan "a WAR you can support" a long time ago.