Saturday, May 31, 2008

Election Prediction

Now that the Democratic nomination is - for all intents and purposes - wrapped up, let's look ahead to the general election. This year's presidential ballots will have unprecedented depth: seven serious candidates running national campaigns (with their names on most state ballots). Bob Barr may, indeed, redirect some votes away from John McCain, but Barack Obama will have to deal with threats from minor party candidates as well. Here's my prediction for the order of finish (with Obama beating McCain in the Electoral College - here's a great Electoral College predictor map - and no other candidate winning electoral votes).

1. Barack Obama
2. John McCain
3. Bob Barr (Libertarian Party)
4. Cynthia McKinney (Green Party)
5. Ralph Nader (Independent)
6. Alan Keyes (Independent)
7. Chuck Baldwin (Constitution Party)

I'm not quite ready to predict vote percentage or states won, but I wouldn't be surprised if all seven of these candidates pass the 1% mark.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More Unintentional McCain Comedy: The Youth Speech

From the Drudge Report:

MCCAIN 'YOUTH' SPEECH PLANNED FOR TUESDAY: 'For much of our history, the world considered the United States a young country. Today, we are the world's oldest constitutional democracy, yet we remain a young nation. We still possess the attributes of youth -- spirit, energy, vitality, and creativity. America will always be young as long as we are looking forward, and leading, to a better world'

Thanks for the string of lame cliches, John. That's what the kids are looking for to inspire them. Put aside all of the policy reasons for opposing McCain - do we really want four years of boring speeches from a cranky old man? Maybe he should have taken some speech writing tips from the rapper known as

Sunday, May 25, 2008

My Favorite Bob Barr Quotes

On the occasion of the Libertarian Party nominating Bob Barr as its presidential candidate, it seems fitting to recall some of Barr's classic sound bites from years past.

"Clearly, the court today has ignored the constitutional right and responsibility of Congress to pass laws protecting citizens from dangerous and addictive narcotics, and the right of Congress to exert legislative control over the District of Columbia as the nation's capital."
- Barr in 2002, after he stopped D.C. from enforcing its voters' wishes to legalize medical marijuana

"There is no legitimate use whatsoever for marijuana. This is not medicine. This is bogus witchcraft. It has no place in medicine, no place in pain relief."
- Another Barr quote about from the same time

Military chaplains at Fort Hood, and other bases "are sanctioning, if not supporting the practice of witchcraft as a 'religion' by soldiers on military bases."
- In 1999, Barr explains why he tried to ban the practice of the Wiccan religion in the military

"The homosexual agenda calls for taking these so-called marriage licenses to the mainland and the other 50 states, the other 49 states, and trying to force these other states, the citizens of these other states, to accept their bizarre view of marriage."
- Barr on his Defense of Marriage Act, in 1996

"Information was gathered at that interview under false pretenses."
- Barr is none too pleased to learn that he was tricked into making a fool of himself in the Borat movie (clip below)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Libertarian Party After Barr

A satirical press release being circulated at the LP convention in Denver (via Reason):

LNC Votes to Change Party Name to "New Republican Party."

DENVER - In a surprise move, the Libertarian National Committee voted today to change their party's name to "New Republican Party." When asked why, newly-elected National Chair Aaron Starr explained that the change was made to "gain credibility" and "get more people elected to office. It's all about getting elected."

The party's presidential candidate, Bob Barr, offered additional insights. "After eliminating all the controversial, scary language from our platform, we decided we might as well change the party's name as well. I plan to campaign on a strong platform fighting Islamo-Fas... uh, narco-terrorists, enforcing oppressive laws at the state, rather than the Federal level, closing our borders and working for a national sales tax. These are traditional Republican issues, and I just know that John McCain isn't a true conservative, so I believe we can pick up a lot of Republican votes by making this change. I've already spoken with several of my former Republican colleagues, and I expect several of them to announce their switch to the New Republican Party in the next few days.

Barr's running mate, Las Vegas oddsmaker Wayne Root, chimed in by saying "I'm so glad our party recognizes the need to appeal to traditional Republican voters who are fed up with the GOP, at least for now. I now feel completely at home in this party."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Obama Speaks Truth to Power About Cuba

In Florida, there's no group more organized and politically powerful than the anti-Castro Cuban-American lobby. So it shows some serious cajones for Barack Obama to go down to Miami today to tell Cuban-Americans that the U.S. should ease its Cuba embargo. As president Obama would allow Americans to travel to Cuba and send money to relatives there. He would also try to tone down the hostility.

And John McCain's Cuba policy? More bluster, of course. This from the man who supported greater engagement with Cuba when he was running for president the first time, eight years ago.

Viguerie and Barr Tag Team Denver Libertarians

This weekend, the Libertarian Party might nominate Bob Barr to be its presidential candidate because they're willing to look past his non-libertarian positions and support the candidate most likely to do well in the general election (although "pragmatic" has never been a word that I'd use to describe the party).

The party also might nominate Barr for a different reason: Richard Viguerie.

One of the founders of the modern conservative movement, Viguerie is no libertarian. But he's backing Barr big time. Today he gave a speech at the LP convention - after elbowing his way into the lineup - titled "Conservatives are off the GOP Reservation: Will they find a home in the Libertarian Party?" Anyone who doesn't see a problem with this doesn't know much about libertarians. Read the full speech here. It's one long conflation of the words "libertarian" and "conservative." In this spirit, Viguerie occasionally calls himself a libertarian. But as International Society for Individual Liberty founder Jarret Wollstein put it "it seems like the newly-converted are trying to ascend directly to the pulpit."

But pushing his way into the Denver convention isn't the only thing that Viguerie has been up to lately. Earlier this week, he bought the Third Party Watch blog. The blog has been noticeably pro-Barr since then (although it was fairly pro-Barr before, as well).

Viguerie has also hired former LP Executive Director Shane Cory, who resigned earlier this month after putting out a press release bashing Mary Ruwart, one of Barr's rivals for the nomination.

There are rumors that Barr, Viguerie and Barr campaign manager Russ Verney (a veteran of the Reform and Natural Law parties) are bringing ringers to Denver to vote for Barr in the convention.

Barr supporter and former Ron Paul campaign coordinator (turned Ron Paul opponent) Eric Dondero is even threatening to create a "Libertarians for McCain" group if Barr doesn't win the LP nomination. That says it all right there.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Huck is Back

No, I'm not referring to his oh-so-funny joke about pointing a gun at Barack Obama. The really interesting Mike Huckabee news this week is this report by Newsmax (not always the most credible news source, but still interesting) that Huckabee is at the top of John McCain's vice president list. Huckabee, you will recall, wants to introduce a national sales tax and "amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards." Be afraid, libertarians. Be very afraid.

(via Liberty Republican)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Barack Obama Should Think About Travis Childers

The big political news this week isn't that Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama in one of the smallest, most isolated, least educated states in the union. No, the big news is that Democrat Travis Childers won a special congressional election in a conservative Mississippi district. And despite some media reports to the contrary, Childers is not a conservative (not in the George W. Bush mold, at least). He supports withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and cutting taxes for middle-income Americans before cutting them for higher-income people. Childers is, however, conservative on the issues of gays, guns and abortion - and it appears that these positions allowed him to avoid the "liberal" label his opponent tried to pin on him.

There's a lesson here for Obama. There is a lot of disagreement among conservatives on a wide spectrum of issues, including tax policy, the war and the environment. There is less disagreement among conservatives, however, about gays, guns and abortion. Obama could hardly change his strong positions on gay rights and abortion rights (nor would he, I'm sure). But he has never been a very fervent in his support of gun control.

Obama's web site says very little about guns, but it does have this passage (hardly gun-banning stuff): "Obama recognizes that we must forge a broad coalition if we are to address the great conservation challenges we face. America’s hunters and anglers are a key constituency that must take an active role and have a powerful voice in this coalition."

Once Obama has the Democratic nomination sewed up, he should tack to the center on guns. This has always been an issue that the pro-gun side cares about much more fervently than does the anti-gun side. He could emphasize that he won't try to stop states that want to allow concealed handguns. He could express his qualified support when the U.S. Supreme Court inevitably overturns D.C.'s gun ban (it's not like the president could do much to overturn this decision, anyway). And, of course, there are plenty of great pro-gun Democrats who would make excellent vice presidential candidates (including Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who I left off my original list).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Obama Will Be the Only Major Pro-Choice Candidate on the Ballot in November

Unless you count Ralph Nader as a "major" candidate, that is. If you care about the right to choose, John McCain and Bob Barr aren't for you. To underscore the point, NARAL endorsed Barack Obama today.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Welcome, Bob Barr

Bob Barr jumped into the presidential race yesterday. According to the Washington Times, a Barr candidacy could generate between 3% (Zogby) and 9% (Barr's own polling) of the vote. I will not vote for Barr, and God help us all if he wins, but I was pretty excited about yesterday's news - and not just for the reason you'd expect.

My top 10 reasons that yesterday's announcement is great news:

10. This year's Libertarian nomination contest will be a real contest. Barr is now the prohibitive favorite to win the nomination, but Wayne Allyn Root, Mary Ruwart, Steve Kubby and even Mike Gravel are all strong candidates (check out this hilarious video Gravel posted on his web site for his birthday). Having a real choice will be great for the LP.
9. Barr's campaign will give Ron Paul's fanatical supporters something to do. Paul hasn't officially dropped out yet - and it sounds like he's going to make some trouble at the convention - but his campaign is a campaign in name only. It would be a real shame if all of the energy that Paul drummed up just faded away.
8. Americans will start to think beyond Republicans and Democrats. This year, I happen to believe that the best candidate is a Democrat, but I'd certainly be happy to have more than two choices in the future.
7. Barr will expose Republicans for the profligate spenders that they are.
6. Barr will expose John McCain's nasty temper with his insurgent campaign.
5. Barr will expose himself as a conservative, not a libertarian. This is a guy who wants government restrictions on abortion, immigration and gay rights. Hopefully this will energize the left wing of the Libertarian Party. But that might just be wishful thinking on my part.
4. Having one of Bill Clinton's impeachment managers on the ballot will energize Democrats - especially bitter Hillary Clinton supporters - and bring them to the polls for Barack Obama.
3. Barr will generate tons of media attention (it's already started), giving both the Libertarian Party and down-ticket Libertarian candidates a boost.
2. As a candidate, Barr can draw attention to issues that the other candidates aren't talking about. Maybe he can even get McCain and Obama to change some of their positions (moving Obama to the right on guns and McCain to the left on privacy, perhaps).

And the number one reason that I'm excited about Bob Barr's candidacy ...

He'll poach votes from McCain - especially in the Mountain West - and deliver the election to Obama.

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.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Obama Puts it Away

Forget all of Hillary Clinton's spin tonight - the Democratic presidential nomination is over. Barack Obama has won. I doubt many libertarians were considering supporting Clinton, but now that things are all but wrapped up, November's choice is coming into sharper focus: Obama, McCain, the Libertarian Party or stay home.

Let's wait to see what happens at the LP convention, but it's pretty safe to say that whoever gets the Libertarian nomination isn't going to be sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom in January. And if Bob Barr or Wayne Allyn Root gets the nod, then there isn't even going to be a true libertarian on the ballot.

If you're one of those people who call yourself a libertarian but love war and torture and an imperial presidency, by all means vote for John McCain.

If you don't think that this election is important - despite the war in Iraq, impending war with Iran, vanishing civil liberties and the emboldened theocratic religious right - go ahead and stay home. But I don't think Americans are going to stay home this year.

Judging by the results in North Carolina and Indiana tonight, Obama did well because young people and African-Americans - two groups that have historically voted in low numbers - turned out in large numbers. Could it be that these groups didn't stay home in the past because they were undecided or unmotivated or uninformed? Could it be that young people and African-Americans and all of the other groups that historically haven't voted (libertarians included) have been staying home for a good reason? Maybe they haven't voted because there hasn't been a reason for them to vote. Because there hasn't been an honest candidate out there who would be straight with voters and occasionally tell them what they don't want to hear. Someone who would run the federal government with integrity and transparency and respect for political opponents and their views. Someone who people can vote for even if they don't agree with all of his stances on issues. Let's hope so.