Sunday, May 11, 2008

Libertarians Matter

Over the weekend, both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) had stories predicting the important swing states for 2008. Though the two lists differed somewhat (the Journal seriously thinks McCain has a shot in California? The Times doesn't think Missouri is in play?) they were pretty similar. And they both agreed that Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado are in play this year.

What do these three states have in common?
1. They are in the Rocky Mountain West.
2. They combine to produce enough electoral votes to swing the election to Barack Obama, if he can win all of the states that John Kerry won in 2004.
3. They are filled with libertarians.

That's right - libertarians could be this year's king makers. As David Boaz and David Kirby wrote for the Cato Institute just before the 2006 election, about one in eight Americans can, broadly speaking be defined as a libertarian, and these voters are drifting away from their historical affiliation with Republicans. Considering that neither John McCain nor Barack Obama is a libertarian, and only a few hundred thousand libertarians will end up voting for the Libertarian Party candidate, millions of these voters are up for grabs this year. And because they are concentrated in swing states in the West - where Obama tends to do well - he has a real shot at winning them in November.

But how?

With the right vice presidential pick, for starters. Obama needs to pick a running mate who is pro-gun. Yes, I know, Obama supports some gun restrictions himself. But it's hardly a signature issue for him. He's even acknowledged that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to own guns, though he also believes that local governments should be able to restrict this right. And several of his potential vice presidential picks go further: Bill Richardson, Bob Casey, Chuck Hagel, Ken Salazar, Tedd Strickland, Brian Schweitzer, John Tester and Jim Webb are all pro-gun Democrats. And all of them show up on short lists of Obama's vice presidential candidates (including this one from Daily Kos).

Libertarians care about a lot more than guns. But if you combine a symbolic vice presidential pick Obama's opposition to the war and to Washington's lobbying culture with McCain's anti-liberty ways, you might just strike the right cord to reach these swing state libertarian voters.


LibertyRepublican said...

Or, Bob Barr enters as the Libertarian Party candidate, gets the nomination, wins 5-10% of the vote with principled libertarians backing him... and Obama wins anyways.

At least I wouldn't feel like I got raped in voting for someone I don't agree with enough or believe in.

Mark said...

That's fine too. Maybe my new slogan should be: "Barack Obama - libertarian enough that disaffected Republicans shouldn't feel bad about voting for Bob Barr."

Jake Featherston said...

I was hoping Bill Richardson would be the Democratic nominee this year, and sometimes I think Barack Obama should pick Richardson as his running-mate (although I'm not sure an all-nonWhite ticket is the way to go, frankly). But Obama is probably going to carry Nevada and New Mexico anyway; Colorado is the real target state in the Rocky Mountain West. Is there a strong, Democratic potential running-mate from Colorado?