- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2008

DENVER — It’s not easy being a Libertarian candidate, as Doug Anderson can tell you.

“I was campaigning outside the Denver Public Library at their used-book sale,” recalled Mr. Anderson, who made it a point to identify himself to voters as a Libertarian. “One guy heard me and said, ‘Librarians? That’s great. I didn’t know the librarians had their own political party.’”

Mr. Anderson, who managed to win his race for the Lakewood City Council in Colorado despite such confusion, had high hopes for his party’s future as he mingled yesterday with more than 1,000 like-minded free-market types attending this weekend’s 2008 Libertarian National Convention.

“I’ve gotten a very positive response,” he said. “Almost everyone you meet knows someone who’s Libertarian.”

That’s what national Libertarians are counting on as they prepare to nominate their candidate for president today. With several seasoned politicians seeking the nod, members of the nation’s largest third party are hoping to fill the void among voters disgusted with Republicans and Democrats.

Leading the list are former Republican Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia and former Democratic Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska, who switched to the Libertarian Party in March after an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Despite their very different political backgrounds — Mr. Barr was known as a conservative during his House tenure and Mr. Gravel was a leader of the anti-war movement — both fit quite comfortably in the Libertarian Party, according to party members.

“Democrats tend to support more freedom socially but not economically. Republicans want more freedom economically, but not socially,” said Clint Jones, president of Colorado Libertarians. “We would like to have more freedom on both sides.”

There’s plenty for liberals to like about the Libertarians, including their support for homosexual marriage and drug decriminalization, as well as their current opposition to the war in Iraq. Even so, Republicans worry that a Barr candidacy could pull votes from Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting Sen. John McCain.

Yesterday was a key test of strength — candidates had to turn in 57 delegate endorsements to be included in a debate last night, scheduled to air live on C-SPAN. Mr. Gravel and Mr. Barr were among the seven candidates who met that threshold, but support was evenly spread, suggesting a tight race today that could go to multiple votes.

Mr. Barr collected 94 “tokens,” according to a Libertarian Party press release, the same number as oddsmaker Wayne Allyn Root and author Mary Ruwart. Mr. Gravel gathered 67 tokens, followed closely by software businessman Mike Jingozian (63), college professor George Phillies (62) and pro-marijuana activist Steve Kubby (60).

Keynote speaker Richard Viguerie, a longtime conservative activist who pioneered fundraising by direct mail, blasted the Republican Party yesterday for trying to “bribe” voters with out-of-control spending, and urged small-government conservatives to consider the Libertarian Party.

“John McCain has had the nomination sewn up for three months, and he’s done nothing to convince conservatives to come off the sidelines and join him,” Mr. Viguerie said.

There’s reason for concern. Third-party candidates have affected the outcome in two of the past four presidential elections, most recently in 2000, when Green Party candidate Ralph Nader pulled enough liberal voters from Democrat Al Gore to cost him Florida and thus the overall election. In 1992, Ross Perot’s independent candidacy grabbed 19 percent of the vote and managed a second-place finish in two states — Maine and Utah.

Libertarians say they’re just giving voters more options.

Story Continues →