Former Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia is considering a third-party presidential run — a bid that could steal support from Republican John McCain and potentially offset the damage Ralph Nader”s candidacy is predicted to have on the Democratic candidate.
Mr. Barr, a House Republican impeachment manager during President Clinton’s administration, yesterday confirmed his interest in running as a Libertarian but said he is unwilling to talk about any “polling we may have done or may do, not at this point.”
“There is great deal [of] dissatisfaction with the candidates for the two major parties, particularly among conservatives, but also a great deal of Internet and other support for a candidate like Ron Paul who advocates libertarian and true conservative principles,” said Mr. Barr, who is now a Libertarian.
Activists have started a Facebook campaign to draft Mr. Barr for the Libertarian Party nomination.
GOP presidential campaign pollster John McLaughlin said a Barr bid wouldn’t be good for Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee. It “takes more points from us than Nader takes from them,” he said.
Pollster John Zogby agreed.
“Why should Democrats have all the fun worrying about Nader? Republicans can try to implode, too,” Mr. Zogby said. “My gut sense is that Bob Barr can get some votes as a consistent libertarian who opposed the Patriot Act, budget deficits and gun control.”
“In this election cycle, where red and blue states can get realigned, where race and gender are wild cards, it won’t take all that many votes in some states to mix things up even further,” Mr. Zogby said.
A Zogby poll this month shows that if the election were held now, Mr. Nader would win 6 percent of the vote, enough to throw the election to Mr. McCain by 45 percent to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton”s 39 percent. In a matchup with Mr. Obama, Mr. McCain wins 44 to 39 percent, with Mr. Nader getting 5 percent of the vote.
The McCain campaign shrugged off a possible Barr challenge.
“We certainly always expected there would be a Libertarian nominee,” said McCain campaign senior adviser Charles Black. “Bob Barr is has been a distinguished public servant, but one of America’s best-known conservatives, Pat Buchanan, did not poll as many votes running as an independent as did Ralph Nader in 2000. So who knows what the impact will be.”
An aide to Ron Paul, the Texas congressman who remains in the Republican race, said his boss likes Mr. Barr and has talked to him about his prospects with Mr. Paul”s supporters. Mr. Paul broke Internet fundraising records in his run for the Republican nomination and has an e-mail list of 400,000 committed donors and activists that would be helpful to a general-election run by Mr. Barr.
Mr. Barr declined to say whether he has approached Mr. Paul.
The possible entry of another general-election candidate on the right presents a further challenge to the Republican National Committee, which has been working overtime on opposition research for the twin contingencies of an Obama or a Clinton nomination on the Democratic side.
Asked for a response, Republican National Chairman Mike Duncan did not mention Mr. Barr’s name, saying instead that “John McCain is the presumptive nominee, and the Republican Party is uniting behind his vision for low taxes, strong national and fiscal responsibility.”