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Friday, May 24, 2024

Who is Bob Barr?

Pundits on both the right and left of the political spectrum are claiming that this four-term congressman from Georgia's rural 7th Congressional District has a shot of drawing enough voters away from Sen. John McCain to propel his democratic rival into the White House.

When it comes down to it, Auburn has a better chance of beating UF this year than Bob Barr has of impacting the presidential race in any meaningful way.

A brief history lesson demonstrates why the Libertarian Party candidate has a minute chance of affecting this election.

In 1972, the Libertarian Party received national ballot access. It has been on the ballot every year since. However, the party's electoral success over that time frame was modest at best, never topping more than a whopping 1.1 percent of the national vote total and capturing a grand total of zero electoral votes.

Barr is different, they protest.

Mainstream media loves to point out that he has eight years of experience under the banner of the Republican Party, and the heightened political atmosphere means he has a unique chance to make an impact. Convincing as this narrative is, it's happened before, and it failed.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas ran as the Libertarian Party's 1988 candidate with eight years of experience as a congressman under his belt. Paul ended Election Day with half a percent of the national vote total.

Then there are the polls that show Barr amassing as much as 6 percent of the national vote total. Unfortunately for Barr, leads like this simply do not hold.

The last time a third-party candidate actually earned close to 6 percent of the national vote was in 2000 when Ralph Nader grabbed 2.7 percent as the Green Party candidate.

Nader was a new candidate with a new, progressive message. The party came into existence only four years earlier, and the Green movement was just catching on. The Libertarian Party can claim no such momentum.

Barr also has several glaring disadvantages as a candidate that will downplay his impact in this election. His greatest detriment will be his poor fundraising numbers. Currently, he is on track to raise less than $1.5 million before Election Day.

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To put that into perspective, in 2000, Ralph Nader raised $8.5 million. The 2000 Libertarian candidate, Harry Browne, raised $2.1 million and earned less than half a percent of the vote total.

His underwhelming fundraising capacity is compounded by his inability to kick-start his base. Libertarian ideals espouse government non-intervention, but Barr voted to authorize the war in Iraq, favored the USA Patriot Act and introduced the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996.

While it may seem exciting to cast Barr as a spoiler, it just isn't plausible.

The election will come down to Obama's ability to convince America that he is ready to lead and McCain's ability to do the opposite.

Barr will likely become an afterthought as he gets pushed to the side, forcing him to watch the big dogs go at it without getting a shot of his own.

Then again, Auburn could be waiting for the Gators in Atlanta this December.

Kyle Robisch is a second-year political science and economics student.

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