The essence of this confusion is typically expressed by radio hosts as a question along the lines of, "Is Ron Paul going to endorse Bob Barr?" However it is worded, the question signifies a profound misunderstanding of who Ron Paul is, what his campaign has done, how political movements and coalitions are structured, and how the Barr campaign hopes to capitalize on the Paul phenomenon.
To get an idea of what I'm talking about, here is Newsweek's know-it-all novice Andrew Romano (folks, I've got T-shirts older than this kid) who expresses his confusion not as a question, but in pseudo-informed declarative sentences:
Barr's goal is snag the support of 15 percent or more of registered voters and participate in this fall's presidential debates. That's unlikely to happen. One big reason: Ron Paul. With his cult-hero bid for the White House, Paul has done more this year than any of his predecessors to popularize Libertarian ideas. . . . But the trouble is, he ran (and is still running) as a Republican, and shows no signs of abandoning his party. If Paul continues his campaign through the GOP convention, as he's already promised, he'll monopolize much of the newly-unleashed Libertarian energy -- the record-breaking donations, the clever online organizing, the passionate activism -- at least through September. At that point, he could (belatedly) pass the torch the torch to Barr. But Paul has shown little enthusiasm for his ostensible heir, and it's unlikely that his followers . . . will abandon their guy for a relative unknown. . . . No matter what happens with Paul, Barr's going to have a tough time attracting the grass-roots and financial support necessary to reach double digits in the polls.This kind of nonsense on stilts will take a while to deconstruct, so pull up a chair and get comfortable.
First, look at Romano's statement that "it's unlikely that [Paul's] followers . . . will abandon their guy for a relative unknown." Wrong. Many of them already have. Were you paying attention? I repeat:
Many Ron Paul supporters already have been active in the Bob Barr LP campaign for weeks.This is what Romano and other MSM people don't get. Campaign contributors, operatives and volunteer activists -- to say nothing of ordinary voters -- are not required to devote their support exclusively to one campaign, one party or one candidate. There is considerable overlap between LP activists and the anti-war conservatives who backed Paul in the GOP primaries.
I know these people personally. I talked to them at the Libertarian convention in Denver. There were lots and lots of veterans of the Paul campaign among the delegates, some of them still proudly wearing their "Revolution" T-shirts and Ron Paul buttons. In fact, some of the Georgia LP delegates with whom I traveled 1,400 miles to the convention ("a bunch of smelly Libertarians," to quote delegate Lance Lamberton) had actively campaigned for Paul.
To cite just one example of this phenomenon, Barr's online team is headed by Martin Avila of Terra Eclipse, who also did Ron Paul's Web design. A few more examples with which I am personally familiar:
- Austin Wilkes -- Featured in Paul's "Supporter Spotlight," helped organize Paul effort in Alabama GOP straw poll; now coordinating meetup groups for Barr.
- Bradley Jansen -- Former Paul congressional staffer and presidential campaign activist; recently came to the defense of Barr's LP candidacy.
- Shana Kluck -- Former "Homeschoolers for Paul" coordinator; now serves similar function with Barr campaign.
- Stephen Gordon -- Former LP political director, served as media coordinator of Paul's Alabama campaign; now working for Barr campaign.
The MSM types don't get this. They keep acting as if what Ron Paul does personally -- whether he endorses or supports or gives money to the Barr campaign -- will have a determining influence over Barr's success. Not true. As one LP convention delegate explained it me, "The Ron Paul movement wasn't about Ron Paul, it was about a movement."
Now, with that in mind, go back and read the Romano article, where he says, "Barr's going to have a tough time attracting the grass-roots and financial support necessary to reach double digits in the polls." Wanna put money on that proposition, kid?
Barr hit 6% in the first national poll that included his name in the survey -- a poll taken just one week after Barr officially announced his candidacy. Since then, Barr's appeared on C-SPAN's "Morning Journal," CNN's "American Morning," Neil Cavuto's Fox News show and Bloomberg News, while Barr appeared with his running mate, Wayne Allyn Root, on Fox Business News.
Most laughable of Romano's misconceptions is his description of Barr as "a relative unknown." Barr was a high-profile figure in the 1994 "Republican Revolution" Congress, helping lead the impeachment of President Clinton. Barr was a prominent conservative leader back when Andrew Romano was still an elementary school kid who'd never even heard of Ron Paul.
And, hey -- Barr was in "Borat." How many movies has Ron Paul starred in? This coming week, Barr will show up on Glenn Beck's CNN show and on "The Colbert Report."
Keep in mind, now, that Barr only officially declared his candidacy on May 12. As "tough" as it may be for Barr "to reach double digits in the polls" (though, remember, he's starting at 6%) does all this media attention look like the campaign of "a relative unknown"?
Over and over, radio interviewers have asked me what I think of Barr's chances in November. I say two things:
- First, I don't have a crystal ball. Who knows what can happen? We're more than five months away from Election Day. Five months is a long time in politics. Five months ago, Hillary Clinton was still the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination.
- Second, people close to the Barr campaign keep using the phrase "perfect storm." Congressional approval is at 19%, and 79% of Americans say the country's headed in the wrong direction. Gasoline is at $4 a gallon, and no major-party candidate -- neither Obama, Clinton nor McCain -- is over 47% in head-to-head polls. Such omens of deep discontent in the electorate certainly could indicate the kind of political environment in which a third-party campaign might catch fire.