Bob Barr Announces Presidential Candidacy

Diving headfirst into the now wide open pool of candidates running for President in 2008, Libertarian Bob Barr from Georgia announced his presidential aspirations on Monday. After forming an exploratory committee just a month ago, Barr decided it was time to announce his bid for the highest office in the nation, saying that voters are hungry for a change from the status quo who would dramatically cut the federal government…and Barr is exactly right.

Neither of the major candidates have any plans to drastically shrink the federal government. The party historically associated with smaller government, the GOP, has chosen a moderate to quasi-liberal candidate who wants to continue the slow growth of the federal government by expanding deficit spending, and pushing forward a majority of the Bush agenda of excusing civil liberties under the banner of “national security”. The Democrats at least do not hide the fact they want to expand the federal government, but can’t seem to stop bickering over which program should get more funding or which part of your life they should control first.

John McCain is facing the same issue that the Democratic party will likely face once the nominee is decided: uniting the party behind their candidate. The Democrats are literally split down the middle over Hillary and Obama, and McCain is having quite a problem getting the conservative base of the Republicans to get behind him.

This was apparent when he was booed just a couple months ago at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and the results of recent primaries where McCain is still losing at least 23% of the vote even after all other candidates have dropped out or wound down their campaigns. The Washington Times recently calculated that McCain has only ultimately garnered 45% of the entire Republican vote in the primaries this season. Numbers like that are not going to motivate the party to rally behind him to help him secure more votes than the Democrats in November.

With no substantial difference except where to allocate funding and deficit spending between all three candidates, Bob Barr is coming at a perfect time. The Democrats and Republicans are slowly becoming the Republicrats, as the Bush administration has shited the Republican Party into a larger government and excessive spending party that mirrors the Democrats of just a couple decades ago. While there are still some social issue differences between the two major parties, the ultimate frame of the two remain eerily similar.

However, the Republicans are doing the best they can to have their base rally around McCain, and are trying to shut out any opposing faction. I have seen this first hand at my own district convention, and it became national news at the Nevada State Convention just recently. While Ron Paul is still in the presidential race, the Republicans have all but shut him out, along with his freedom based, small government and economically sound fiscal policies, branding him and his views as extremist and unrealistic.

Bob Barr is already seeing the same welcome given to Ron Paul from his former Republican party that he left in 2006. He told the Washington Times this week that a number of Republicans have been trying to persuade him to not run for president on the Libertarian ticket, no doubt fearing the likelihood that it will pull the conservative vote out from under McCain.

Barr is calling his perspective “genuinely conservative”, and is raising issues and providing alternatives to the similar solutions of the two major parties. While Republicans are pressuring him from behind the scenes, none can give him a valid reason why the issues should not be brought up. He was quoted telling the Washington Times in an email Sunday, “In the month since we formed our exploratory committee, not a single Republican who has spoken with me to try and convince me not to seek the Libertarian nomination has disagreed with my reasons for considering a run.”

Interestingly, Bob Barr has hired Ross Perot’s former campaign manager. If Barr can capitalize on the forgotten issues of both major parties as Perot did in 1992, he could make a sizeable impact on the election, and even give himself a chance to win. As some of us may remember, Perot took a whopping 18.9% of the popular vote in the 1992 Presidential Election against George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton even after suspending, then reinvigorating his presidential campaign that year. Perot capitalized on an ultimately centrist platform, hitting on liberal issues such as abortion and environmentalism, and conservative issues such as barring free trade, balancing the federal budget and opposition to gun control.

While Barr will take a strictly conservative stance rather than a centralized one, the time is ripe for him. American voters are yearning for change, even though many may not know exactly what change it is they want, they just know they want one. If Barr can stand up to the pressure of both major parties and the unavoidable media blackout that Ron Paul faced, he may stand a chance in the general election. The real test will be if he can convince voters that he stands for the greatest and most sensible change for America out of all the candidates, and how a Barr presidency can help put the country back on the right track.

Another question that has come up in my mind, and will no doubt be a popular question to many people interested in the Barr campaign will be, what about Ron Paul? Many of his supporters have called for him to take his broad base to a third party candidacy, even though he has not once said he has even considered the option. If Barr picks up steam, it is entirely possible that we may end up seeing a Barr/Paul, or even Paul/Barr ticket in the general election if Ron Paul does not gain a spot on the proposed Republican ticket. Bob Barr donated $1000 to Ron Paul’s presidential campaign before deciding on his own bid, and they have historically had very similar conservative and libertarian views in Congress, with Barr being a bit more moderate than Paul in his voting record.

It is shaping to be an even more interesting election season than anybody anticipated…and I can’t wait to cover it!


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