Hit & Run

Won't You Be My Nader?

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The Bob Barr-as-Ralph Nader meme—a no-brainer that was first given form by reason's own Matt Welch—makes its way to the Associated Press.

"Bob could be the Ralph Nader of 2008," said Dan Schnur, a GOP consultant in California who worked on McCain's 2000 campaign but is not involved in this year's contest. Consumer advocate Nader is the third-party candidate many Democrats blame for helping George W. Bush narrowly win in 2000.

Rep. John Linder, a Republican who defeated Barr in 2002 after Georgia's Democratic-controlled Legislature redrew congressional boundaries to put the two lawmakers in the same district, said he didn't think Barr would top 4 percent of the vote.

"But in some states that may be enough," Linder said.

Democrats seem gleeful at the prospect. Tad Devine, a Washington-based Democratic strategist, said Republicans "are crazy if they aren't worried about Barr."

The one source who dismisses Barr is his old 1994 Revolution taskmaster Newt Gingrich, who argues, gut-splittingly, that "no reasonable conservative is going to vote for anyone except McCain." Barr refuses to play ball and says McCain will lose because "his message and his vision did not resonate with a plurality of the voters."

Over at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, David Brown asks if the big Paul vote in the GOP primaries portends a Libertarian groundswell.

If energy and money from what his backers call the Ron Paul Revolution flow into a third-party push, it spells trouble for McCain, who stands to lose more votes from such efforts than does Democrat Barack Obama, analysts say. Votes going to third-party candidates in key battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Florida, and even Georgia, could tip those states to Obama, they say.

"McCain's got a problem," said Micah L. Sifry, author of "Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America" and editor of techPresident.com, which tracks how the candidates are using the Web.

"In the last few primaries, Ron Paul kept getting double-digit levels of support. It's a sign of something we already know: the Republican base is divided and being pulled in different directions," Sifry said. "One of the directions it's being pulled in is the direction of the Libertarian Party."

Newsweek's Andrew Romano is convinced that Barr is putting Georgia in play.

Ultimately, [Obama's] performance depends on the two B's: Bob Barr and black voters. A former four-term Republican congressman from the Atlanta suburbs, Barr's been a known quantity in Georgia for two decades; now, as the Libertarian Party's nominee for president, he's guaranteed to sap a sizable number of votes from McCain, who lost the state's February primary to Mike Huckabee and inspires little enthusiasm among its largely Evangelical Republican base. Since February, only two polls have listed Barr as an option—and both were conducted by Insider Advantage. The Barr-less polls peg McCain's support at 53 or 54 percent—an insurmountable edge. But as soon as you add Barr to the equation, McCain's numbers plunge eight to 10 points. Released on May 21, the first Insider Advantage poll show Barr swiping eight percent of the vote and McCain slipping to 45; in the second, it's Barr with six and McCain with a mere 44. The moral of the story: if Barr's on the ballot in November—and he will be—McCain is vulnerable.

There's one problem for Obama here that I never hear discussed. Georgia, like Indiana, has strict rules demanding that voters show photo IDs at the polls, and that could take thousands or tens of thousands of votes from Obama.