Friday, July 13, 2007

Survey says ...

Steve Gordon and LibertarianLists just completed their first survey of libertarian attitudes toward the 2008 presidential election. The results are being fed out in chunks at various places on the Internet, including (so far):

- Gordon Unleashed
- Last Free Voice
- The Free Liberal

The good news:

This Space Intentionally Left Blank

The bad news:

- Ron Paul commands overwhelming support from the survey pool. 69.62% of respondents list him as their presidential preference ... and support for Paul is higher among self-identified Libertarian Party supporters than among Republican respondents. From the total pool, 67% of respondents identify themselves as Badnarik 2004 voters.

For the record no, I don't think that Paul supporters "stuffed" or "slammed" the poll. The situation really is that ugly.

- Paul's support level relegates all LP candidates to single-digit percentages, such that even the "pack leaders" -- George Phillies (2.71%), Steve Kubby (2.01%) and Wayne Allyn Root (2.01%) are scrunched within 0.7% of each other. Christine Smith trailed the pack, coming in at just under 1%.

In raw votes, George Phillies was the "winner" by 14 votes, but it's hard to make a case that any of the LP candidates did better than miserably or that any of them stood out. None of them received as many votes as Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson or "other."

Kubby did excel the other LP candidates in name recognition and "favorability" numbers -- the former by a good margin (Kubby's name recognition was nearly 50%, Phillies's just short of 40%, and Root's less than 20%). On "favorability," the candidates were once again clustered very closely.

As a Kubby supporter, I can't say that anything in the survey comforted me greatly. At this point in the campaign, I'd hoped to see him positioned as the clear front-runner (at least in the LP field), not bogged down in a cellar mud-wrestling match with two other contenders.

The bottom line:

The LP and the libertarian movement are in deep trouble. None of the LP's candidates have made a significant impact yet, large segments of the party are defecting to a conservative Republican dark horse with no chance of winning the GOP nomination and every chance of continuing to damage the freedom movement in the process of failing to do so, and this trend looks likely to continue through at least next spring.

Even if Paul drops out of the GOP race in February or March -- not a safe assumption, as he seems like the type to go all the way to the Republican Party's national convention as an ineffectual protest candidate, draining libertarian support from productive activities all the while -- there will likely be a reasonably effective "draft Paul" movement in the LP.

And even if that movement is unsuccessful, there may be an organized "NOTA" campaign prompted by Paul's GOP campaign but going on after that campaign ends.

And even if by some chance the LP does manage to nominate a libertarian presidential ticket (as opposed to a Paul ticket or NOTA) despite these obstacles, it looks likely to be a badly underfunded campaign in a year when a well-funded LP campaign with the right candidate (cough ... Kubby ... cough) would almost certainly mean real gains for the party at the polling place and in the public sentiment.

There are bright spots, existing and upcoming, that the survey doesn't reflect, but I'm not terribly optimistic that they'll be enough to break the Ron Paul cult's death grip on the freedom movement's throat. Unless we (or others) find a way to do that, and soon, 2008 is going to go down as a year of lost opportunities.

Gordon's/LibertarianLists' next survey is available here. Weigh in!

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