The more I think about it, Bob Barr's apparent decision to enter the presidential race may be the worst news John McCain has gotten all year. McCain basically needed one million things to go right for him to be able to capture the Republican nomination -- and a million things went right. With the Democratic race dragging on, it seemed like that luck was continuing into the general election. But one of the major things McCain needed to go right for him in the general election was for no viable third party conservative challenger to emerge. However, Barr might be that challenger.
If Barr enters the race and captures the Libertarian Party nomination, he will bring a 98 lifetime ACU rating to the table; he has served as a National Rifle Association board member; he sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act; Numbers USA notes that he, "usually supports less immigration, less population growth, less foreign labor" and has been a strong opponent of chain migration; and as far as I can tell, he has a solid pro-life voting record.
A lot of his potential appeal to conservatives in a general election will depend on how many of his conservative positions he'll have to run away from to become the Libertarian nominee. Clearly, his strongest appeal to Libertarians will be his opposition to the PATRIOT ACT, and he'll likely have to take a strong anti-war stance.
Even if he does, however, there are still very active and vocal conservatives out there who will simply never be able to stomach voting for McCain. The number may dwindle as the prospect of an Obama administration starts looking like a realistic possibility, but there will always be a certain percentage of McCain haters. If Barr is able to avoid some of the more inflammatory rhetoric employed by Ron Paul in the primaries, he'll be a tempting protest vote for disgruntled conservatives. He may not win a huge number of votes, but even if he's able to capture a few percent in swing states, especially out West, Barr could be a real headache for McCain.
By way of full disclosure, Barr has served as a contributing editor to The American Spectator.
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