Barr/Root: A Point-Counterpoint


As I reported in my write-up of the Bob Barr election night party, VP candidate Wayne Allyn Root promised the crowd that he'd be back in 2012: "Maybe as your president-elect!" Root e-mailed me later to reflect on how the ticket had performed.

Barr/Root got the 2nd highest raw vote total in the 37 year history of LP, we did it in perhaps the worst environment for Third Parties ever (because of the hype, fear, and excitement over Obama)… and we did it on a virtually non-existent campaign budget. Obama won with almost $700 million. We did it with no money. Only nonstop media appearances… and IDEAS!

In all prior elections, the LP VP candidates were literaly MIA  and invisible for the entire campaign. They received zero media attention. In 2008 I changed all that with 800+ media appearances, including FOX News Channel nonstop in the last month of the campaign. What I accomplished is remarkable for a third party VP candidate. That is a SMALL sign of things to come.

I campaigned for over a year with one theme at every event, every media appearance, every debate, every speech, every conversation with voters: that Barry Goldwater had great ideas, yet still lost in a landslide. Reagan took the same ideas and won in two landslides. The only difference was his ability to communicate, educate and motivate voters. I'm a Reagan/Obama for the LP and the Ron Paul freedom movement. Obama's election proves a good communicator can change everything.

Now instead of running for President for a short period of time, or a spur-of-the-minute idea. I have four years to hit the ground running. Four years of nonstop media appearances. Four years of serious fundraising. Four years of contrasting my ideas for smaller government with those of our President Barack Obama, my college classmate, my Libertarian book out with one of the world's biggest publishers in May, and serious interest from major radio syndicators for my own national political radio show called (what else?) ROOT FOR AMERICA.

A little while later I heard from Steve Kubby, the medical marijuana activist who narrowly lost the party's VP nomination to Root and beseeched LP "radicals" not to bolt the party. (Given how few people voted for the breakaway Boston Tea/Personal Choice Party, I think Kubby succeeded.) Kubby has put out a public statement on this year's LP campaign.

The bottom line for this ticket is that they promised $30 million in campaign contributions and a popular vote of 5%. Instead, they raised just over $1 million and failed to break 0.5% of the vote, landing them a 4th place finish for LP presidential campaigns. Barr and Root received a record amount of media coverage and they are celebrities in their own right, but it didn't work out the way we were told it would.

So much for media and celebrity.

The Barr/Root campaign was an honest test of media and celebrity and the results are clear. Media and celebrity is not the answer. Our ideas and our ability to communicate those ideas, is what sets us apart and earns us serious attention. The hunger for new ideas has never been greater and our ideas, about limited government, ending personal income taxes and upholding personal freedom are more mainstream than ever.

If we dilute our message and rely upon celebrity, it gets us nothing but empty rhetoric. On the other hand, if we transmit a pure signal and only a handful get it, but they totally and earnestly get it, then that is revolutionary.

I think the poor showing of Ralph Nader—on more ballots than ever, but registering his lowest vote totals ever in most states—is the best evidence that this was just a bad third party year, as Root suggests. But there were two other directions the LP could have gone in. One minor change would have been the selection of Kubby instead of Root as VP. Kubby would have soothed most of the people who went online and agitated against Barr/Root, and given the campaign an extra media hook (the drug warrior and the drug war victim!), but it's unlikely Kubby would have done as much media as Root or appealed directly to conservatives.

A major change would have been the nomination of Dr. Mary Ruwart over Barr. Ruwart might have secured the endorsement of Ron Paul. She certainly wouldn't have spooked him into endorsing Chuck Baldwin. But the low vote totals of the Baldwin campaign don't suggest that Paul could have boosted any candidate that much, given that his endorsement wasn't backed up by campaign appearences or fundraising. And Ruwart would have alienated Barr supporters (and Root) to the degree that they might have sat the election out. With no media profile outside of the movement, she would have gotten a level of coverage comparable, probably, to Cynthia McKinney. There was no one "right" way to boost the LP in 2008.