The Spectacle Blog

Re: Who’s Afraid of Bob Barr?

By on 7.8.08 | 3:38PM

Everybody keeps making the comparison of Bob Barr to Ross Perot, Jim, but it's important to remember the differences. Perot popped up on the national radar screen much earlier in the cycle than Barr did, and in a much higher-profile way.

Perot announced his candidacy on "Larry King Live" in February 1992, just about the time Pat Buchanan was eating Bush 41's lunch in the New Hampshire primary. Perot was a successful businessman whose basic pitch -- that the government was a fiscal disaster and needed business-like efficiencies to fix it -- resonated with a lot of the same people who had responded to Buchanan's populism.

In 1992, immediately after the Gulf War had made CNN a national phenomenon, Perot's hour-long appearances on "LKL" had a huge impact. And Perot had the huge advantage of running against one of the most unpopular presidents in history, at a time when the unemployment rate was about 8 percent. By May '92, Perot was polling ahead of both Bush and Bill Clinton.

One thing that seems obvious this year is that voters are not reacting to John McCain as if he were a Bush surrogate. Bush's job approval rating is barely 30 percent and the "right direction" poll numbers are well under 20 percent, and yet John McCain is at 44 percent in the latest Gallup daily tracking poll, virtually tied with Barack Obama. If McCain's numbers were to collapse -- so that the Republican became perceived as a certain loser -- then you might see a big shift to Barr. But so far that perception hasn't taken hold.

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