And I do mean anybody. Ron Paul held his press conference at the National Press Club where the Republican congressman said he spurned the McCain campaign’s request for an endorsement and urged his supporters to vote third-party — but didn’t specify which party. Instead Paul appeared with an eclectic set of minor candidates who professed to agree with him about Iraq, civil liberties, the national debt, and the Fed: Ralph Nader, Constitution Party nominee Chuck Baldwin, and the loathsome Cynthia McKinney. Bob Barr bailed on the event, for reasons not yet clear but probably at least partially attributable to his desire to stand apart from the other third-party candidates this year.
To the extent that the Paul movement is a transideological, left-right coalition that was never going to unite around a single candidate like Barr or Baldwin, this move makes a certain amount of sense. Most of Paul’s supporters probably were going to go third-party anyway and this just helps reassure those who might haave been thinking of McCain or Obama. But it also makes the Paulites less of a coherent political movement — we’re talking about a little over a million people splitting their support between three or four candidates with very different platforms — and makes Paul, as Dave Weigel puts it, “the patron saint of political outcasts.”
Paul’s tacit position had previously been that his supporters should vote for either Barr or Baldwin, which makes a little bit more sense since the three are closer on the issues and it splits the Paul vote between fewer candidates. The two men certainly needed some shoring up from Paul, since Sarah Palin is rapidly bringing disaffected conservatives back into the GOP fold.
UPDATE: Weigel has more on Barr’s decision to drop out of the event. While I agree with Barr that Paul’s “any of the above” approach is a mistake and represents a failure of leadership, it is a huge tactical blunder for Barr to pick a fight with the Paulites. The Libertarian nominee has enough problems with his lack of consistency over the years, he doesn’t need this.