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Libertarian Barr says he scares McCain
Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr says Republicans are so afraid that he will spoil things for Sen. John McCain that the Republican presidential nominee is shadowing him, scheduling appearances in battleground states to match Mr. Barr's own campaign events.
"I suppose it's a compliment," Mr. Barr told editors and reporters at The Washington Times. "It confirms that the states where we are spending our time are really the critical ones, in which the gaps between Senators McCain and [Barack] Obama are smaller than what we are polling.
"The two states we just found out about today are Ohio and New Hampshire, where McCain apparently added stops to his schedule in order to shadow us," said Mr. Barr, who in months past had polled in the high single digits in some states.
McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds dismissed the claim.
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"This from the same man that also believed Borat was a Kazakh journalist," said Mr. Bounds, referring to British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who interviewed Mr. Barr in the guise of Borat for his 2006 spoof movie.
Mr. Barr, the former Republican congressman who switched parties in 2006 and won the Libertarian nomination this year, acknowledged that he will not win the White House but said his goal is to offer voters a clarifying moment.
"They're Americans, and they no longer have to settle for voting for the lesser of two evils. The lesser of two evils is still evil," he said.
Over the summer Mr. Barr had polled in the high single digits in some states and even cracked 10 percent in a poll of New Hampshire voters, although recent polls have not shown him as strong.
Mr. Barr languishes at 1.3 percent of the national vote, according to the RealClearPolitics.com average of polls, putting him well behind Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama as well as independent candidate Ralph Nader.
Still, Mr. Barr is doing slightly better than Libertarians' best showing in a presidential election of 1.1 percent for nominee Edward Clark in 1980, though it's far behind what Mr. Barr said he needs to have an impact.
"I don't harbor any great optimism we're going to reach the figure Ross Perot did in 1992, but that provides, I think, a very clear example of what we're talking about. In other words, what counts in terms of influencing public policy is votes in a general election," he said.
"If you can get a significant, whatever that is, 5, 10, 12 percent vote, nationally, then you will have the opportunity to influence public policy."
H. Ross Perot received nearly 20 percent of the popular vote when he ran for president as an independent in 1992.
He said the future of third parties in American politics will be defined by how well he does in this presidential election and how well Libertarians do in the next few cycles, arguing that his party has shown consistency and staying power but now must show it has influence as well.
Mr. Barr said he cannot see a return to the Republican Party but that his old party will need entirely new leadership after the election. He said someone like Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, would be a good leader for Republicans to promote, but that his old party has instead "punished" those figures.
Mr. Barr had harsh words for Mr. McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, saying she is not qualified to be president unless "walking those sidelines of a hockey game in Anchorage maybe does equip you."
He disputed former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's endorsement of Mr. Obama as "not terribly substantive" because it focused on Mr. Obama as transformative, rather than on specifics.
Mr. Barr said the next president should roll back the authority that he said President Bush has claimed in order to collect communications of U.S. citizens. Mr. Barr also said that if elected, he would try to return the commander in chief's role "to what it was intended to be" by reining in wartime assertions of presidential authority.
On the international front, he said he would "dismantle NATO," warned against moving to embrace the former Soviet republic of Georgia and blasted Mr. McCain's "ridiculous statement that we are all Georgians."
He said he sees both Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain as predisposed to being interventionist presidents.
"I don't have a great comfort level with either one," he said.
After the interview, Mr. Barr and his two aides stood talking with a reporter in front of The Times' headquarters as the candidate's rented car and driver pulled into the driveway. Mr. Barr's two aides climbed in, and as Mr. Barr prepared to enter the right rear passenger side, the car began to pull away without him, even as the right passenger door still hung wide open. The candidate, smiling broadly, shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.
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About the Author
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Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.
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