Live from the LP Convention: Nominating Speeches and the 2008 Candidate


As I walked onto the floor, one delegate ran up to me to gloat. "Did you know that C-Span's got the only cameras here?" he asked. "What about Bob Barr's media frenzy, huh? If he's getting so much attention, where's all the media?"

"The media already thinks he's the nominee," I said.

At the convention tables, the smears have stopped, and the endorsements have arrived. Three Libertarians have distributed letters in support of Bob Barr, and the Ruwart campaign has put out a letter with endorsements from four former LP presidential candidates and two former VP nominees. Well, sort of. Dave Bergland, Andre Marrou, and Tonie Nathan explicitly endorse Ruwart, while Michael Badnarik says she's "pretty, smart, and swings a huge philosophical bat," and Ron Paul appears in the form of his blurb for Healing Our World.

Wayne Allyn Root gets the first speaking slot—last night he promised something "spectacular," and what he provided was a video endorsement from radio host Mancow (a card-carrying Libertarian), an argument for Root's appeal from Manny Klausner, and a tender seconding speech from his daughter Dakota. Root's speech is light on policy, heavy on biography, ending with the story of his mother clinging to life while he rushed to visit her in the hospital. "Wayne is on the way, they kept saying," Root remembered. "When I got to that hospital room I heard the greatest sound I ever heard: Meep, meep, meep. She was still alive!"

Internet problems solved, I should be liveblogging for a while.

10:06: Barr is nominated by two local (one former) LP chairs and Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project. "Times have changed," Kampia says. "I debated Bob Barr on TV. I testified before his committee. Last year, Bob Barr lobbied for the MPP." The head of Atlas PAC calls Barr's media attention "air supplies being dropped down to the trenches of the candidates."

10:12: Barr gives about as good a speech as he could have. The biggest applause comes when he does what delegates have told me again and again they wanted him to do: Nail himself to the cross and apologize. "I have made mistakes," Barr says. "The only way you make mistakes is by getting in the arena and getting things done."

10:15: In a spot of luck, Barr is followed up by the utterly unserious Christine Smith. She's nominated by a guy who tried to give me the 9/11 Truther Rock Creek Press 10 minutes ago.

10:16: Classy: Smith wears an anti-Barr button onto the podium.

10:20: Smith whines about the party nominating "middle-aged white males" and says it's time for a female candidate. If it's barely working for Ruwart, why does she think it'll work for her?

10:24: Smith bashes the "neo-cons trying to take over this party," meaning Barr and Root. There are wild cheers from some of the people holding Ruwart signs, and even some standing ovations.

10:27: How objective does a reporter have to be about this? Smith has been ranting for 13 minutes and it's time for the hook.

10:33: Ruwart's introductory speaker is accompanied by a slideshow straight out of the alternative Libertarian universe where Ruwart is a superstar. Among her credentials: "Most popular writer on The Advocates e-zine." Her targeted voter groups:

Ron Paul supporters
Alternative medicine advocates

Some overlap there, I think.

10:35: The speaker's pushing the "women want to vote for a woman" argument, and the slideshow is getting even more self-parodying. Oh, so Barr's got all that media attention? Here's a page from the New York Times that mentions her. Here's a copy of a Kalamazoo paper that covers her county commissioner race.

10:39: More from the speakers: "She'll build this party by continuing the Ron Paul Revolution." Barry Hess continues the "Ron Paul" theme, bashing Root and Barr (not by name): "They are the darling of the old media. The new media has Mary."

10:43: Ruwart's speech is surprisingly short, especially coming after the Smith debacle. It's rhetorically clever: A candidate who's benefitting from white-hot rage against the right side of the party calls for unity from all factions.

10:44: The reception for Ruwart is really something. Twice now she's spoken before the assembled LP delegates, and twice she's been solid but unimpressive. (She told some people last night that she regretted not drawing more contrasts with Barr at the debate.) Twice her supporters have remained completely in the tank. The threat of a Barr or Root "takeover" is just too much for them.

10:54: While George Phillies' supporters nominate him for far, far longer than is necessary, let me theorize why, if Barr loses, he will have lost. Obviously, a certain segment of the party was never reachable. But a large, swing vote is gettable for Barr. These voters just want to be convinced he's honest about his conversion and that he's not leading a right-wing coup of the party. A byword for "right-wing coup" is "suit." And Team Barr is an army of dark, shiny suits. Barr's done a good job telling the story of his conversion, but he could have done it with more delegates, diving into hospitality suites, arguing one on one. He needed this more than any candidate, save Root. He's done a lot of it, but we'll see how much is enough.

10:58: Phillies' nominating speakers really underline his links to Outright Libertarians. A heavy emphasis on gay marriage in all their comments, some of it very personal.

11:01: That was truly odd. Phillies' speakers went on for so long that he talked for less than a minute. His campaign is handing out a curious, unmarked CD-rom containing the contact info of LP donors.

11:02: David Nolan nominates Steve Kubby by praising all seven debaters from last night: I hear a coded appeal for calm among Barr and Root haters.

11:04: Well, maybe not. Nolan says Kubby doesn't have to apologize for taking away freedoms… like, you know, some people.

11:20: Russ Verney of the Barr campaign expects a three-way-tie, after the second ballot, between Barr, Ruwart, and Root. They don't believe all of Ruwart's delegates will stick after the first ballot, but nor do they know where the also-ran candidates' votes will go. "No one outside the top three really has the ability to move their delegates as a bloc."

11:25: Michael Jingozian uses his nominating speech time for a video that doesn't exactly scream "128th fastest growing company in America." Or maybe it does.

11:31: There's not a lot of substance in Jingozian's speech. It's the weakness I've seen time and again: He doesn't seem to have a commitment to libertarianism deeper than "let's abolish the stuff that doesn't work."

11:34: Well, that's a nice piece of theater: Jingozian nominates Gravel. I know he's telling his supporters to vote Gravel if he doesn't make it. It's a good fit: These are the two candidates with the most reflexively (accidentally?) liberal values on some tougher issues.

11:41: Gravel might make a powerful, popular LP member in a few years, but boy does he ever not have the jargon down yet. He refers to "you libertarians" and "the miracle you're involved in."

11:44: There's a lot of grumbling from Ruwart backers about Jingozian's move.

11:48: Gravel's giving a hell of a speech, but I have to love the line "the American people are smarter than their leaders: They just don't know it yet!"

11:50: The Barr people just did something stupid. They're doing a Ron Paul-esque march around the hall, in front of C-Span cameras, and it's inspired a wave of heckles and boos. They look, frankly, like assholes. "They're Republicans!" I overhear. "What do you expect?"

11:54: I'm told by Liberty's Andrew Ferguson that Kubby has been approached by basically every candidate as a VP nominee. You've got to love the political poetry of a Barr/Kubby ticket, however unlikely it now seems.

12:24: The TV audience probably has a better seat than me. I've been wondering around for a grasp on what will happen next. Delegate Bill Van Allen is walking the aisles with a Barr sign attached to a Ruwart sign: "Party unity, anybody?" He's arguing that Ruwart will get more attention as Barr's running mate than as the latest in the Marrou-Browne-Badnarik cavalcade o' irrelevance.

12:28: Here comes the state-by-state. Rumor is that Barr will come in third–which could make Root the "mainstream" candidate. He's been telling everybody who'll listen that he's the most popular 2nd choice.

12:34: Everybody's going after Kubby, one of the few candidates who's hinted he'll accept the VP slot. Phillies is probably out.

12:40: In a Libertarian world, there would be no need for endless state party speeches.

12:47: We're heading to a Root-Ruwart lead, with Barr back in third. Root romped in California with 38 votes (we will soon hear) to Ruwart's 20 and Barr's 17.

12:57: Arizona's 8 for Ruwart is pretty week: AZ and Texas have some of the most radical parties. But the support for Ruwart is broad, so she's picking up everywhere. The question is how many of them stay pledged to her.

1:09: Unless there's a huge Jingozian surge, it's a whopping six candidates in the next ballot: Root, Ruwart, Barr, Gravel, Kubby, Phillies.

1:11: A shock: Barr narrowly wins the first round. it's all from delegate replacements.

Barr 153
Ruwart 152
Root 123
Gravel 71
Philies 49
Kubby 41

41 are up for grabs.

1:18: Ruwart's comment: "I'm excited!" Russ Verney says Team Barr is doing what it expected, and waiting for commitments to end after the 2nd ballot.

1:21: Barr on Christine Smith: "I guess I'm not getting her vote."

1:34: The California delegation has voted: Barr gained 4, Root gained 3, and Ruwart stayed at 20 votes. Paul Thompson, the Delawarian who voted for Ron Paul, says he did it "for C-SPAN." He's going for Root now. (I have no problem divulging the "secret ballot" when the man is his entire delegation. You could deduce who he voted for…)

1:37: The second ballot is coming in.

Barr 188
Ruwart 162
Root 138
Gravel 73
Phillies 36
Kubby 32

One vote for none of the above. The Barr vote and Root vote combined is a majority, but don't assume that all Root voters are Barr voters. The anti-Barr vote is very, very strong, and we may start seeing Phillies and Kubby and Gravel voters moving to Ruwart no matter what their candidates say.

1:51: The Barr campaign isn't surprised by the Kubby endorsedment, but they worked for it damn hard. Kubby powerhouse Thomas Knapp is waving a Ruwart sign now, reflecting the endorsement. Barr's people are trying to make up for it by talking to Gravel delegates.

2:06: Overheard Root delegates saying "we'd all get fucked" if "she" led the ticket. Overheard some delegate of unknown provenance asking: "Who wants to be Ruwart's VP?" Sarcastically, I should say.

2:09: Results from the third ballot:

Barr 186
Ruwart 186
Root 146
Gravel 78
Phillies 31

Two votes for none of the above. Barr drops two, Ruwart goes up 24 (2/3 of the Kubby vote), Root goes up eight. Three people who voted in the second ballot didn't vote.

2:14: Worth keeping in mind: Phillies has been incredibly critical of Barr and Ruwart, and his supporters include lots of LGBTs. I expect some movement to Root.

2:16: Phillies speaks, and praises everyone but Barr and Ruwart, as I expected. But: "The enemy is not here. The enemy is out there!" It gets a roaring, screaming ovation. The LaRouche mention was well receieved. (It doesn't happen much these days, but for a while the meme that LaRouche was a libertarian was widespread and really, really irritating.)

2:34: Fourth ballot:

Barr 202
Ruwart 202
Root 149
Gravel 76

It. Never. Stops. The theory that Ruwart's support would peel off after their commitments ended seems to be non-functioning. I have no clue what Gravel will do as he exits the balloting, and I keep asking…

2:38: There's confidence in the Barr camp: They feel they'll get more of the Root vote than Ruwart gets of the Gravel vote.

2:49: I've heard that Gravel voted for Root on this ballot, and that they're gathered in a conference room now pooling their forces. I've seen Barr chatting with Gravel and Ruwart delegates, making the electability case.

2:50: Ran into Wisconsin's Ed Thompson, who says he's supporting Ruwart because "there'll be a lot of disaffected female voters" when Hillary loses. But he'd be happy with Barr.

2:57: Fifth ballot:


Root will endorse Barr.

3:07: Barr and Root are clustered together, talking to press, acting like they've won. They probably have. Delaware's Ron Paul guy, Paul Thompson, has voted for Barr. "Ruwart, once you look past her answers… they're the simplest things that just don't work."

3:14: Ruwart will endorse Kubby for VP. Get ready for another battle.

3:26: Gravel on why he didn't give a concession speech: "That's not my style." He'll send letters to all of the delegates instead.

3:27: It's all over but the heckling. Ruwart supporters look like they've had their heads shoved underwater: Barr and Root are doing smiley interviews with the national press.

3:30: Bob Barr wins the 2008 Libertarian Party nomination with 324 votes to Ruwart's 276.

4:07: Sorry for the hiatus: I was on C-Span. I'm spending the rest of the day figuring out what the hell Barr and the party are up to next.

4:09: Gotta love AP general knowledge of the LP: "Barr beat research scientist Mary Ruwart, who was the party's presidential nominee in 1983 and vice presidential candidate in 1992." That would have been impressive, if it wasn't totally false.