After a bruising, six ballot convention contest, Barr emerged the victor, giving Libertarians hope that this well known politician will expand their visibility.
But his election comes as a blow to Libertarian unity, as alternet writer Alexander Zaitchik reports,
Even many Libertarians who welcome Barr's candidacy as a boost for the party's profile (and, they hope, their chances of spoiling the candidacy of that statist pretender to Barry Goldwater's throne, John McCain) admit they are left uneasy by Barr's long "anti-Liberty" record in Congress.
This record includes voting for the Patriot Act, staunch support for the war on drugs (Barr is a former federal prosecutor) and authorship of the Defense of Marriage Act. He has since renounced many, if not all, of his old positions, but the turnaround has been too recent and too sudden for many Libertarians to fully swallow his conversion story. In 2002, the Libertarian Party called Barr "the worst drug warrior in Congress."
The question is, will Barr's candidacy siphon off more votes from McCain or the Democratic candidate.
Barr says he will run in 48 states. He's already on the ballot in 28 states.
"The Libertarians have been good for only around 3% of the vote in recent elections. However, 3% in a close election between the Republican and Democratic tickets could make the difference.
Much as Ralph Nader drew enough votes from Al Gore in 2000 to help George W. Bush win the White House, the little-known Barr could draw enough votes of dissatisfied conservatives to hurt Sen. John McCain's chances as the GOP nominee."
The Washington Post's Micah L. Sifry, observes,
Sen. John McCain is champing at the bit to run against Sen. Barack Obama in the fall. But while the presumptive GOP nominee focuses on his likely Democratic rival, he should also worry about his own right flank. Bob Barr entered the presidential race last week as a Libertarian, in time for that party's nominating convention (which starts Thursday), and while the former Republican congressman from Georgia isn't going to become president, his run is no joke. Barr might well inherit the sizable support garnered by Rep. Ron Paul during his own run for the Republican nomination -- and leave McCain sputtering the sorts of epithets usually uttered by Democrats talking about Ralph Nader.
Right wing Weekly Standard editor Michael Goldfarb, citing Sifry, fantasizes that Barr will do no harm, speculating, in response to Sifry,
They aren't going to vote McCain no matter what, but they might have voted Obama to punish their party and force a withdrawal from Iraq. If Andrew Sullivan is any indicator, supporting Ron Paul and Barack Obama are not mutually exclusive. In the absence of a third party run by Paul, or a Libertarian bid by Barr, these voters would have ended up in the Obama column. Instead we may have four anti-war candidates on the ballot--Obama, Nader, Paul, and Barr. And whatever protest vote exists within the Republican party is minuscule compared to the Democratic protest vote against Obama (see West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc.).
Barr will give anti-war voters who bitterly cling to guns and religion another option in November. If he has any impact at all, and he may not given the nature of his early attacks, he seems likely to siphon votes from Obama, not McCain.
But Goldfarb seems to ignore what Sifry said next about Ron Paul,
"...If Barr manages to capture the attention of Paul's base, it could spell real danger for McCain. ...While everyone has fixated on whether Ralph Nader cost Al Gore Florida, TV commentator Patrick Buchanan, running on the Reform Party banner, got enough votes in Iowa, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin to tip them out of George W. Bush's hands. Ron Paul may not be on the ballot this November, but his sizable grassroots movement will probably still be looking for a champion. Bob Barr won't be president, but he could still gore McCain.
Will Republicans, already unenthusiastic about McCain, jump ship for red-meat conservative Barr? Alternet's Zaitchik reports,
Another sign that Barr is already opening the Libertarian Party's gates to an influx of disaffected conservative Republicans was the convention presence of legendary Republican fund-raiser Richard Viguerie, whose involvement in the Libertarian Party closely mirrors that of Barr's.
"The GOP has abandoned conservatives, who are off the reservation," Viguerie said in a keynote speech Saturday. "Technology is the key to making the Libertarian Party the new force in American politics. Become a blogger in the battle for America's soul. We don't need Wall Street Republicans when we have the tools of the new age."