Thursday, February 14, 2008

Barr-barians at the gate?

Last April, I wrote:

When asked if he would consider running for president himself, [Bob Barr's] answer was, and I quote: "Next question, please." If you think that means what I think you probably think that means, I think that you and I are probably thinking it means the same thing. I would not cross Barr off the list of potential candidates.

As Ron Paul's Republican presidential campaign gained momentum -- within the Libertarian Party if not so much within the GOP -- the possibility seemed more and more remote. Barr introduced the resolution last December in which the Libertarian National Committee endorsed Paul "invited" Paul to seek the LP's nomination. I heard somewhere (but dammit, I can't remember where) that Barr had specifically committed to not running as a condition of being selected keynote speaker for the party's upcoming national convention in Denver. A Barr candidacy (unless perhaps it was a VP candidacy with Paul) just didn't seem to be in the cards.

Over the last few days, things have been changing pretty quickly:

- Romney pulled out of the GOP race (and allegedly some of his supporters started dropping Barr's name as a third party "versus McCain" possibility).

- Barr, to much applause, introduced Ron Paul at CPAC, the premier annual conservative event.

- Paul conceded the GOP nomination in substance if not in form.

- An allegedly spontaneous "draft Barr" buzz generator kicked from zero into high gear (for examples, see this article and this one at Third Party Watch, this blog entry a LewRockwell.Com, and James Leroy Wilson's latest at Partial Observer).

What comes next?

Well, there's an LP presidential candidate debate scheduled this weekend in Las Vegas at a Libertarian State Leadership Alliance conference. The Libertarian National Committee, on which Barr serves, is scheduled to meet at the end of that event [event schedule in PDF]. If he wants to "answer the call," he's perfectly set up to do so before an audience of Libertarians from around the nation. I don't think that this is mere coincidence -- I think the "draft" effort was timed to encourage it (whether with or without his prior knowledge, I can't say).

Next weekend, the largest state LP, California's, holds its 2008 state convention in San Diego. Barr isn't on the list of scheduled speakers, but I doubt they'd deny him speaking time to announce his candidacy, or deny him entrance to the candidate debate if he had already announced. Of course, Barr is scheduled to be in Missouri that Sunday for a local LP caucus event in St. Louis, but that's what airplanes are for. It would be his third visit to Missouri in a year, so if he had to cancel I doubt he'd be tarred and feathered, especially if the cancellation was accompanied by notice of his intent to attend the state convention as a presidential candidate.

The LP in Barr's home state of Georgia (which I'm pretty sure is still the nation's second largest state LP) holds its convention on March 1st. Another good announcement venue.

I'm not going to bet the ranch on a Bob Barr "due to popular demand" announcement, but if Wayne Root was making book I'd probably risk a few bucks on it. Barr has three perfect venues in which to announce over the next three weekends, and the first one makes the most sense: The LSLA conference brings together a national cross-section of LP wigs and wags, and he'd be better off attending the two biggest state LP conventions as a declared candidate rather than as a prospective one.

I guess we'll see. I can't say I'm ecstatic over the possibility, as I already have a strong candidate preference, but I think I could work up a bit more enthusiasm for this Republican-turned-Libertarian than I was able to muster for that other guy, the Libertarian-turned-Republican.

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