I Don't Want to Spoil the Party. No, Wait: Maybe I Do.

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Add North Carolina to the list of states Bob Barr could spoil for John McCain.

Barr, the Libertarian presidential candidate, was the choice of 6 percent of likely voters surveyed recently by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. Barr drew more from presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, the choice of 43 percent of those surveyed, than from Democratic candidate Barack Obama, favored by 40 percent.

(In a matchup with Hillary Rodham Clinton, McCain received 39; Clinton, 34; and Barr, 6.)

"It's a long way until the election, but the early indication is that Bob Barr's presence on the ballot could be a good sign for whoever ends up as the Democratic nominee," said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling.

Third-party candidates don't usually do as well in the deep South as they do in the Upper Midwest and Mountain West. Barr's polling strength is close to (better, in this case) the strength of local Libertarian candidates, who usually run more tailored, easier-to-relate-to protest campaigns than the party's national candidate.

Semi-related: Dena Bunis talks to Ron Paul supporters in California and asks what they're going to do next.

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  1. Something to keep in mind is that people in North Carolina and Georgia consider their states “safe” for the Republicans, so they think they can vote third party without consequences.

    If it turns out that the race is actually in the single digits, Barr’s support would likely plummet, as people who might be inclined to vote for Barr decide that they’d better hold their nose and vote for a major-candidate to keep the Democrats from winning.

  2. If it turns out that the race is actually in the single digits, Barr’s support would likely plummet, as people who might be inclined to vote for Barr decide that they’d better hold their nose and vote for a major-candidate to keep the Democrats from winning.

    99% of the time, I’d agree, but with McCain being McCain, and lots of Republicans expecting to lose anyway, with no real incumbent or former VP running, I think the standard political calculus may prove unfounded this time around.

    Ok, so I hope for this more than I think, but things are sure to be at least a little different this time around…

  3. The spoiler “debate” is a red herring. Shouldn’t people vote their consciences?
    Sometimes pundits think too much.

  4. What the hell has Barr been doing the past week? Where is all the MSM attention he was suppose to bring to the party? The man needs to rent a blimp or something.

  5. Of course people should vote their consciences, ed, but what’s wrong with thinking about how such actions would affect the race?

  6. Warren,

    “Waaah haaa haaaa! I’m privileged! I’m libertarian! A crazy Catholic man is stealin’ my show!”

    McCain gave a speech about something a few days ago. Nobody noticed that, either.

  7. McCain gave a speech about something a few days ago. Nobody noticed that, either.

    Yeah, nobody cares about anything political except the never-ending Democratic race. Barr’s getting far more attention than Nader at the moment, mostly because no one thinks liberals will peel off from Obama at the rate conservatives will ditch McCain.

  8. I love how Republicans feel entitled to my vote, no matter how much of a RINO they run…
    JMR

  9. I think joe’s logic cuts both ways; I’m in North Carolina, and I will probably vote for Barr (rather than Obama) because I don’t think Obama really has a realistic chance of winning here anyway, so I might as well vote (closer to) my conscience.

    If I thought I was in a genuine swing state I’m not so sure that would be the case.

  10. I don’t understand why the Reps. feel so entitled to my vote. I’ve been voting for almost 30 years and have never pulled the lever for one yet. (I even resisted the siren song of Ron Paul, in the end.)
    Of course, I’ve never voted for a Dem either, but that’s another story.

  11. Bartlett said people who have backed [Paul] are getting active in politics and he hopes that will help move the GOP back to its traditional roots.

    I was contacted by one of the Paul supporters in the Central Florida area trying to influence the local GOP in a similar manner. The only thing I could think was “good luck”.

  12. And the fact that I’ve voted in every general election since 1980 and never voted for a winning candidate at any level* has become such an ingrained part of my life’s narrative that, at this point, I can’t risk voting for a candidate who has any kind of a chance.

    *Actually, I blew my chance at perfection a while back when I voted for the guy who dug my basement for township trustee. He won, the bastard.
    But it was a non-partisan race.

  13. The poll is meaningless, the difference is 3% and the sampling error is 4.5%. Come on people!

  14. It’s amazing that the undecided segment goes up 10% when they switch the Dem candidate, Obama to Clinton. I have to wonder if this Democrat inspired poll has an agenda.

    Not that it matters: Clinton is toast.

    I like typing that. Clinton is toast; Clinton is toast; Clinton is toast (aaah).

  15. well not meaningless, but it doesn’t show what the article purports it to show.

  16. As a North Carolinian, I don’t understand why Libertarians are seen as slanting Republican. In a state where Helms represents the Republican mindset often, I can’t subscribe to that notion. It’s hard for me to vote Republican here.

  17. I think Barr will probably spoil GOP chances in the Mountain West and maybe Georgia. Is Mormon resentment over the GOP’s failure to nominate Romney going to have any effect or will they vote GOP based on the old “conservative judges” argument?

  18. Also, the Paultards may spoil Barr’s chances of being a spoiler by continuing their cult of personality thing instead of actually trying to get libertarian ideas out there.

  19. Before I get interested in Barr, does anyone at Reason know about any racist newsletters Barr wrote? Best to let us all know now rather than in October.

  20. Bingo,

    It doesnt matter. McCain can win Utah even with a significant Mormon backlash. By significant, I mean enough to get Barr 10% or the vote.

  21. montaigne,

    Barr did lick whipped cream off a woman’s breast that wasnt his wife.

    But that was an issue during one of his congressional campaigns years ago, so we dont have to worry about it being an issue again.

  22. what’s wrong with thinking about how such actions would affect the race?

    Nothing, if you have plenty of time to waste. More to the point, Republocrat partisans fear third-party candidates because they threaten their cherished two-party stranglehold on political debate. And when their candidate fails to win it fair and square due to his own shortcomings, they blame the “spoiler.” Nader is right in refusing to accept blame for Gore’s defeat. Gore lost nationally (and in his own state) because he was a weak candidate, not because the voters were presented with another left-of-center option. The spectacle of Moore and Maher begging Nader not to run was both sickening and revealing. They feared giving Americans too many choices.

  23. piperTom,

    Clinton is toast for the Pres spot. But, despite going to Obama, many(most?) of the superdelegates are still Friends of Bill, if she wants the Veep spot, Obama cant prevent it.

    If an Obama/Clinton ticket wins, Im start a pool to predict his date of death.

  24. Well, robc, there goes that one. Plus, he’s got a mustache. Was Teddy Roosevelt the last one with a mustache to win?

  25. montaigne,

    The breast licking was at a charity event, so that makes it okay, right?

  26. You know, that sort of thing might get a lot of people more fired up about giving to charities, don’t you think? I mean, dropping change in the jar at the grocery store is about a 1.2/10 on the excitement scale. But licking a lovely young woman’s whipped-cream-covered breast? You’ll hit six figures in no time.

  27. They feared giving Americans too many choices.

    That’s the sickening feeling I get in general regarding the authoritarian wings of the Republican and Democratic parties.

  28. But licking a lovely young woman’s whipped-cream-covered breast? You’ll hit six figures in no time.

    Better throw in some options for the ladies, too. And the homosexuals. And the moral scolds (just kidding on that last one…or am I?).

  29. OT-Hillary is out!! She’ll announce tonight!

    One of the truly reprehensible characters to have traipsed across the political stage.

    Ding dong the witch is dead….

  30. robc: depends on whether the charity event was funded with state funds.

  31. And the moral scolds (just kidding on that last one…or am I?).

    The moral scolds get to cover the breasts up. We’ll provide whipped cream for that purpose.

  32. …Republocrat partisans fear third-party candidates because they threaten their cherished two-party stranglehold on political debate. And when their candidate fails to win it fair and square due to his own shortcomings, they blame the “spoiler.” Nader is right in refusing to accept blame for Gore’s defeat. Gore lost nationally (and in his own state) because he was a weak candidate, not because the voters were presented with another left-of-center option. The spectacle of Moore and Maher begging Nader not to run was both sickening and revealing. They feared giving Americans too many choices.

    ***

    Well-put. Time to lay the “spoiler” argument in its grave.

  33. Well, as long as the charity was licking breast cancer. Then it might be okay.

  34. Is Mormon resentment over the GOP’s failure to nominate Romney going to have any effect or will they vote GOP based on the old “conservative judges” argument?

    As long as McCain is careful to not say anything to disparage the LDS faith or Christianity in general, he’ll win Utah and Idaho (the most heavily LDS states) in a blowout, maybe by a 2-1 margin in Utah.

    OTOH, if Romney was the nominee, he’d probably get 85% of the vote in Utah.

    And not all LDS are Republicans, just as not all blacks are Democrats.

  35. Nader is right in refusing to accept blame for Gore’s defeat. Gore lost nationally (and in his own state) because he was a weak candidate, not because the voters were presented with another left-of-center option.

    Ever consider that he lost BOTH because of his own deficiencies AND because of Nader’s candidacy? Seems little doubt the latter played a decisive role and pitting the two factors against each other as if they’re mutually exclusive makes about zilch sense. You could always say a candidate could have gotten more votes by being a better candidate (or less votes by being a worse candidate), but as things played out, sans Nader in the race Gore would have likely won. Which one strongly suspects most Nader voters would have preferred over the actual outcome of Bush winning, thus the term “spoiler” and subsequent requests by leftists for Nader not to do it again.

    Any questions?

  36. RE my post at 11:10am-

    Never mind

  37. reason sucks

  38. I love how Republicans feel entitled to my vote, no matter how much of a RINO they run…

    That’s funny. I love how Libertarians feel entitled to my vote, no matter how much of a statist they run…

  39. If you deliberately run as a spoiler, you are a spoiler.

    Ralph Nader purposely organized his campaign strategy, especially at the end, to concentrate on flipping particularly close states, instead of concentrating on maximizing his/the Greens’ total vote.

  40. I always assumed that most third-party votes are cast by those who would have otherwise stayed home.

  41. Nader has always played a really silly game with the “spoiler” issue. In 2004 his campaign sold T-shirts with the word “SPOILER” and the slogan “revolutionaries always spoil corrupt political systems.” But if you asked him if he wanted to spoil Kerry, he’d mutter about how Kerry should be winning in a landslide, so it didn’t matter.

    I like Barr’s relative honesty on this front.

  42. Citizen Nothing

    Since I never stay at home on election day and I vote 3rd party nearly every chance I get (or at least LP, I wont vote for a green, for example), I disagree. But I may be unusual in that way.

  43. robc,
    Perhaps it’s counterproductive, but I’ll vote for any third-party, even Socialist Workers if that is my only option (knowing it’s got no chance of winning), just to register my displeasure with the status quo. Of course, I much prefer voting Libertarian.
    If there were only Rs and Ds on the ballot, I’d stay home.

  44. Of course, whatever my choice of candidates, I can usually do my part to stick it to the children, the old folks and the differently abled by voting against some tax or another.

  45. I like Barr’s relative honesty on this front.

    What does he say?

  46. “Barr did lick whipped cream off a woman’s breast . . .”

    I’m amazed at how that single anecdote has persisted since, what, 1994? This occurred at a charity event for cancer research, if memory serves. The Atlanta papers made a big to-do about it, and Democrats brought it up for years, a perennial item, just as they alway brought up Barr’s divorce, even though that stuff never had any impact at all, election-wise.

    This reminds me of how, in the 1980s, Democrats would always mention “Bedtime for Bonzo” reflexively whenever the name Ronald Reagan came up: “He made a movie with a monkey!” I was a hard-core Democrat back then, yet even I found that reflex strange. People just keep repeating these kind of things like mantras, or as if they only have room in their brains for simple mnemonic tricks: “Reagan = monkey movie,” “Barr = whipped cream,” “Clinton = intern cigar,” etc.

  47. Some years ago, I actually drank milk from the breast of a woman who wasn’t my wife. In fact, it would have been illegal for her to be my wife.

  48. Too much information, Chris.

    “Reagan = monkey movie,”

    On net, neutral.

    “Barr = whipped cream,”

    A plus!

    “Clinton = intern cigar,”

    Icky. A negative.

  49. Citizen Nothing | June 3, 2008, 11:50am | #

    I always assumed that most third-party votes are cast by those who would have otherwise stayed home.

    According to polling, it varies from election to election.

    Certainly, turnnout didn’t increase by 19% in 1992, during Perot’s first run, so he was getting at least some of his votes from people who would have voted for one of the two major parties.

    IIRC, and I probably don’t, the breakdown on the Nader vote was 2/3 Gore, 1/3 Wouldn’t Have Voted, and low single digits Bush.

  50. Some years ago, I actually drank milk from the breast of a woman who wasn’t my wife. In fact, it would have been illegal for her to be my wife.

    I did the same thing! That’s a weird coincidence.

  51. I’m hosting a debate tomorrow night (6/4) on the merits of Barr vs. McCain, if anyone in NYC — including Carolinians — is interested in joining us:

    http://toddseavey.com/2008/05/26/debate-at-lolita-bar-should-conservatives-and-libertarians-vote-for-barr-instead-of-mccain/

  52. Wow, me too!

    That makes three of us that have done that to your mom, Chris!

  53. If McCain doesn’t want Barr to “steal” his votes, then McCain needs to give small government conservatives a reason to vote for him. He doesn’t own my vote, if he wants it he has to earn it.

  54. Michael Goldfarb, Deputy Communications Director for the McCain campaign, has instructed all Ron Paul supporters that the GOP doesn’t need their votes and that they should vote for Obama.

    So if McCainiacs are happy if libertarians vote for Obama, I doubt they’ll mind very much if we vote for Barr.

  55. joe,

    Nice try. It would be perfectly legal for my mom to be your wife. Well, unless we’re related, which is a possibility neither of us wants to consider… ;=)

  56. That said, the whipped-cream boobs incident makes his appearance in Borat all the more interesting in context.

  57. Well played, Joe.

    At this point what McCain would need to do to give small government conservatives a reason to vote for him is basically lie. It would be too convenient of him to actively embrace small government principles at this point. Everyone knows where McCain stands and if he begins altering those positions on some issues it will tarnish his “straight-talk” image. Whether conservative voters would buy it or not I honestly don’t know. Either way I’m not concerned about spoiling the election for McCain at all. I vote mainly for economic issues and McCain’s apparent ignorance scares me just as much as Obama and no VP-candidate or speech is going to make me feel any better.

  58. It is absolutely amazing how stupid some of the writers at this magazine are. Bob Barr has about as much chance of spoiling North Carolina for John McCain as Ralph Nader has of spoiling New York for Barack Obama.

  59. Are RedState’s servers down today or something?

  60. Fluffy | June 3, 2008, 3:34pm | #
    Michael Goldfarb, Deputy Communications Director for the McCain campaign, has instructed all Ron Paul supporters that the GOP doesn’t need their votes and that they should vote for Obama.

    ***

    Where’d you find this? Un-by-God-believable.

    Well, maybe not THAT unbelievable…

  61. “Michael Goldfarb, Deputy Communications Director for the McCain campaign, has instructed all Ron Paul supporters that the GOP doesn’t need their votes and that they should vote for Obama.”

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2008/03/a_message_to_ron_paul_supporte.asp

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