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Today In Third Party Dysfunction

Libertarian candidate for president Bob Barr held a press conference at noon today at the National Press Club. The audience was a little thicker, and a little hotter under the collar than they’d be for your average Barr-Wayne Allen Root avail; an earlier presser and photo-op starring Ron Paul, Cynthia McKinney, Ralph Nader and Chuck Baldwin had made the question of Barr’s insurgent credentials topic A on the long-shot candidacy grapevine. As Jason reports, Paul stood together with these notable also-rans (and still-runnings), declaring his coveted support for all third-party candidates, including Barr. The love-in rang hollow with Barr, apparently--it turns out that his campaign people presented a plaintive letter to Paul as recently as 24 hours ago, in a meeting designed to persuade the GOP phenom to endorse the Libertarian ticket only.

When Paul rebuffed him (As he had McCain, and for at least the second time--in December Barr had aped Hillary Clinton’s April promise to put the then-leading Barack Obama at the bottom of her ticket), Barr refused to play nice at the pity-party this afternoon. Throughout his own appearance, he sought to clearly distance himself from the gaggle of insurgents, trumpeting “bold,” “specific” solutions to American  problems (though he didn’t name a single policy issue), and declaring that “being a part of a group doesn’t interest me."

Further, in a bit of a swipe at Paul, Barr insisted that “primaries don’t count” and that it’s “the number of votes one gets in the general election” that go furthest toward pushing any third party’s agenda. But the conference itself undermines Barr’s claim to be seeking “as many votes” as he can get in this 55-day stretch to November 4th. Was he threatened by the thought of appearing next to Chuck Baldwin? Barr’s now polling under three percent nationally. Surely the charming waggle of his pushbroom moustache could have picked off a few voters in the Constitution Party’s scattershot coalition?

And as it is, Barr’s lone-dog stance could easily backfire. Paulite holdouts quickly put Barr on the hotseat for his refusal to show unity against the Republican and Democratic nominees. (“You weren’t there for the photo!” one independent blogger exclaimed.) Barr shot back by quoting Dante, who said, “This is not a time to remain neutral." But he didn’t get the last laugh. “I was going to vote for the guy, but it seems to me he’s as arrogant at George W. Bush,” one onlooker sneered.

--Dayo Olopade