Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Some thoughts on the presidential race

Back in late 2006, I signed on with Steve Kubby's campaign for the Libertarian Party's 2008 presidential nomination. I did so because he was obviously the best candidate in the race at the time. In my opinion, he remains the best candidate in the race. He no longer bests every one of his opponents by every measure, but he bests all of them by most measures and each of them by some measures.

And, until Dr. Mary Ruwart entered the race, I was pretty sure that he would pull off the nomination. While Wayne Allyn Root was slightly ahead in internal LP polling, Root was also at the top of his "positives" ... he had (and has) nowhere to go but down.

It was just barely possible that Root would come in first on the first ballot at the LP's national convention, but with nowhere near the required majority and no chance of pulling in the votes of his opponents as they fell one by one. Those other votes were eventually going to land on Kubby.

When Dr. Ruwart entered the race, she immediately replaced Kubby as the likely nominee. Higher positives, lower negatives, and years of internal party speaking -- she's familiar and likeable to the delegates and her ideological credentials are, like Kubby's, sterling.

No sour grapes here -- I greatly admire Dr. Ruwart and would happily support her as the LP's nominee -- but when she threw her hat in the ring, Kubby's chances immediately went from good to grim.

Then things started getting really weird. Democratic presidential candidate Mike Gravel jumped the fence to the LP one day (with only a few rumors beforehand), and entered its presidential contest the day after that.

Despite his "star power," the former two-term US Senator is by no means a lock for the LP's nomination. He's got some definite differences with the party line. However, he is likeable, he's emphasizing his agreements with the LP line on foreign policy, and he's certainly going to be a factor (a welcome factor from this left-leaning libertarian's perspective, btw).

And still out in the tall grass, we have former Republican Congressman, now Libertarian National Committee member Bob Barr. There's been an ongoing "draft" effort, part real and part contrived, to get him into the race.

I happen to like the Congressman on the basis of what I've seen (including meeting him and hearing him speak twice). However, I'm hoping he sits 2008 out, for his own good and for the party's. Barr has huge potential, and not enough time to deploy that potential to full effect if he announces this late. 2012 is his year -- a 2008 run would sacrifice his interests as a candidate, and the party's interests in real, solid growth as a political power, to the desire for short-term gratification (and possibly 2008 campaign paychecks for some of those pushing him to declare).

I anticipate being able to cheerfully support whomever the Libertarian Party nominates, of course ... and I'm pretty sure it won't be the candidate I support for the nomination (and whom I will continue to support for as long as he remains in the race).

So, what does the future have in store for Steve Kubby? As of now, Kubby remains a presidential candidate. He's continuing to produce issues videos, trying to raise money to meet more Libertarians at their state conventions, and hoping to "break out" at the national convention itself (as Michael Badnarik did in 2004). This is exactly what he should be doing.

There are, however, other possibilities.

I've previously endorsed -- and still support -- Chris Bennett for the LP's vice-presidential nomination, but as things continue to devolve toward a circus, I suspect that both the presidential nominee and the party will start agitating for someone with a higher profile (Chris is only 6'9").

If that happens, we could do far, far worse than Steve Kubby. He's got the ideological credentials. He's got a track record of fighting successfully for freedom. He's got good name recognition in California and among a key national constituency (drug policy reform advocates). If the party wanted him to, he could effectively run a "second campaign" in California and the Pacific northwest -- giving the LP a constant presence in that region and freeing the presidential nominee to spend more time in other parts of the country. In the process, he'd be bootstrapping his own prospective 2010 gubernatorial campaign, and with it the California LP's chances of doing well in both 2008 and 2010.

Because I've grown to place a high premium on loyalty, I expect to vote as a delegate for Kubby for the presidential nomination, and Bennett for the vice-presidential nomination, until and unless either or both of them are eliminated. Because I place a high premium on realism, I expect both of them to be eliminated. I'm not pessimistic about the final results, though. I believe that the LP can have a very good year, and that with candidates like Steve and Chris stepping forward to hold the banner high, that it will have a very good year.

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