Barr: Barr in the AJC

Clark Kent

<B>News Bot</B>
Sep 11, 2006
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10-26-2008 11:15 AM
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution followed Bob up to Ohio earlier last week, caught his speech at the University of Cincinnati and sat down with him to discuss the state of the election, the major parties candidates and nosedive of the the Republican Party:

I get kind of tired of hearing Sen. McCain tell us hes a maverick, Barr says as titters ripple through the crowd. In one of those debates, I would have liked to have said, OK, time out. At the very beginning of the debate, Mr. McCain, we want you to recite 50 times, I am a maverick. And well just get that out of the way.

A few minutes later, after slamming the recent government bailout of Wall Street, Barr pulls a poker face: Oh, by the way. Who was the administrations main cheerleader in the Senate during all those votes? You guessed it! Sen. John I Am A Maverick McCain .

Make no mistake about it. Barr, the former Republican congressman from Georgia, is running to be the first Libertarian president of the United States. By running squarely, defiantly, against McCain and the Republican Party he feels has lost its way.

Dont believe it? Ask Barr about his message here in Ohio, a key battleground state where McCain and Democratic opponent Barack Obama have deployed vast amounts of money in a quest to capture its to-die-for 20 electoral votes. His response is almost gentlemanly formal: Particularly as Sen. McCain seems to be entering the homestretch here with a decreasing chance of winning, rather than an increasing chance, one of the things we urge people is, if you might have been predisposed to vote for McCain, you should now feel even freer not to have to do that.

Then his words turn blunt: Vote for the Libertarian. Vote your conscience. McCains going to lose anyway.

Ouch. Obama doesnt completely escape Barrs censure, of course - the speech here includes a similar riff on the Change America Needs candidate having to recite I hope for change 50 times at the start of a debate. But Barrs heart doesnt seem to be in it as much. Perhaps he knows what two polls will show the following day: Obama leading McCain by 12 and 14 percentage points among Ohio registered voters.
The occasion, a meet-the-candidate/fund-raiser event, highlights the daunting challenges of running as a third-party candidate: An organizer stands on a chair to offer Barr yard signs in return for $10 donations while Frank Sinatra warbles Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you on an old jukebox. Self-described former Republican Matt Bianco elbows his way around the pool table for a photo with Barr and informs him, You got my vote tonight. The postal supervisor voted in Ohios Republican presidential primary last March, but Barrs call for government restraint regarding civil liberties and the economy will have him pulling the Libertarian lever next week.

Joe Bozzis almost there.

Im 99 percent sure Im not voting for McCain, says Bozzi, 35, an IT director from Columbus, Ohio, who voted for Bush in 2004 but now is considering various third-party candidates. The Reagan small government Republican is so discouraged by what he sees as the partys abandonment of those principles that hes come here tonight to size up Barr. Im looking around, trying to find a new home.

But what if he votes for Barr and McCain ends up losing Ohio by the slimmest of margins?

&#8220;I dont feel I can vote with the Republican Party, even if it means Obama gets elected, Bozzi says somewhat glumly, but firmly. &#8220;Sometimes you just have to put your foot down and say, &#8216;Enough is enough.&#8217;&#8221;
Barr clearly intends his day of speaking and flesh-pressing here to suggest otherwise. But, he says, hes not the GOPs biggest enemy.

The problems with the Republican Party go a lot deeper than Bob Barr, much as my ego might like me to think otherwise, he says. If McCain loses Ohio, it will be because the Republican Party no longer has a message or a vision or a candidate that can appeal to a plurality of voters. Theyre reduced to reacting to Sen. Obama or manufacturing this silliness about Joe the Plumber. Wheres the vision?

In the final stretch of this marathon, more people are telling me that they plan to vote for Bob Barr. Whether they are disgruntled Republicans or civil liberties-minded Democrats, they are just ready for something new and Bob is the only candidate talking about their issues.



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