Bob Barr became a darling of conservatives in the 1990s for taking the lead in anti-Clinton efforts and particularly in becoming one of the main congressional figures pushing for the President’s impeachment. Since he left office, he has served on the NRA and on the American Conservative Union Foundation.Indeed, I can see many Republican’ts who had to hold their noses in order to cast ballots for McCain in the primaries, switching over to Barr in the general, even understanding that he cannot possibly become the 44th President of the United States. I suspect that most reasonable GOPers know that, after eight years of George W. Bush’s incompetence, excessive spending, and warmongering there’s no way American voters will be conned into letting another member of their party succeed him. They might as well vote for Barr as a way to protest their leaders’ poor judgment in nominating McCain in the first place.
Yet, the issues on which Barr has focused over the past few years should also endear him to left-leaning voters--speaking out against torture, against the war, lobbied on behalf of the ACLU. Thus, there would clearly be some on the Left who will be attracted to his emphasis on civil liberties and his anti-war discourse. Just as Ron Paul drew some of his support from disenchanted Democrats (and, reportedly, former Kucinich supporters).
But there is little doubt that Barr would draw most of his supporters from voters who lean Republican in federal elections. Libertarians usually vote for the GOP when they cast a ballot for one of the major parties (there is a reason Ron Paul was running for the Republican nomination).
More importantly, the reason Bob Barr has a high profile and could make some waves in the coming months is his 1990s anti-Clinton agitation and his very conservative position on a number of issues that put him at odds with libertarians: He was a fierce defender of the War on Drugs, though he appears to have become a defender of medical marijuana since his libertarian conversion. It is from the Right that Barr will get the most votes, the most help and the most funds.
Bob Barr is primarily focused on explaining why the Republican Party has gone astray and abandoned its roots, and that his anti-war discourse is that of a disaffected conservative rather than an anti-Republican partisan. This is a language many Republicans will relate to after eight years of the Bush Administration has some conservatives grumbling that he has abandoned them.
And that is a language that might appeal to some conservatives reluctant to support McCain, viewed as a heretic in some circles. Some oppose him because of his refusal to take the hard line on issues gay marriage and torture--on which Barr agrees with him--but most of the anti-McCain sentiment among conservatives rests on economic issues, his vote against cutting taxes and his sponsoring campaign finance. For voters who aren’t sure if they could vote McCain because of stuff like this, Barr is a good protest vote.
READ MORE: “Hagel: McCain Facing Electoral Buzzsaw Over Iraq,” by Sam Stein (The Huffington Post); “ John McCain: Family Man?” by David Corn (MoJo Blog); “ Book: McCain Temper Boiled Over in ’92 Tirade, Called Wife a ‘Cunt,’” by Nick Juliano (Raw Story).