In an interview with Ari Armstrong in 2001, LP principal founder David F Nolan expressed his view that the LP ought to put more emphasis on Congressional elections.
I have shared that view since my proposal I called LINC 80 (Libertarians IN Congress ’80) was met with a shrug by the LP administrative leaders at that time. The Clark-Koch campaign was the only priority.
Here are a few quotes from Nolan in the Armstrong interview and my comments.
“The Harry Browne campaign  and the Libertarian Party spent something like $3 million, to get around 390,000 votes — about $7-$8 per vote. Contrast that with the 1.7 million votes we got at the Congressional level. I don’t have precise figures because you don’t even have to file with the FEC unless you raise and spend $5,000. We had 255 or 256 Congressional candidates, and I would be very surprised if they spent even $1 million. As far as I know, only about a dozen raised and spent more than $5,000 (I was one of those). The great majority of them ran line-holder type candidacies. They got on the ballot, they went to interviews on local TV and radio stations, they went to local forums and answered questionnaires, and did what they could, but I would suspect that the great majority of them spent less than $1,000. I would suspect that all together our candidates spent about half a million dollars. They got 1.7 million votes, which works out to about 30 cents per vote.”
The advent of the internet provides considerable more financial leverage for candidates today. The LP could have candidate in nearly all the 435 Congressional races. Assuming a minimal average budget of $10,000 each for 435 candidates would require raising $4.35 million. Some candidates would raise far more than the minimum and some would only scrape together little more than the filing fee taxes. This goal is feasible for the LP in 2018. The greater problem is 2020 when the presidential campaign could largely devour the financial base of all but a few Congressional candidates.
David Nolan went on to say, “We can raise a proportionately greater percentage of money in a Congressional race. A good candidate with a good campaign team who makes a serious effort can raise $10,000. That’s not a lot of money, but concentrated in one Congressional district, and allocated strategically, it can create a significantly greater presence in the race, enough so that our candidate can at least be the balance of power. Witness all the Republican hand-wringing over our Senate candidate in Washington who helped to defeat Senator Gorton. We can be a player. Our candidates can capture the swing-vote; they can be the deciding factor.”
I would add that there can be some races in highly partisan gerrymandered congressional districts where the Libertarian candidate would be the incumbent’s only opponent on the ballot. In those districts 20 or 30 percent of the vote is not unrealistic. In fact, it is my view that an upset victory is more likely in such a lop-sided district because the incumbent can get lazy and arrogant even commit fatal gaffs when challenged by a hard charging Libertarian candidate. If a Libertarian wants to run a mild-mannered campaign this is the kind of district to avoid because you may only get 2-3 percent for being such a nice person.
Mr. Nolan added, “In Congressional races, we have greater name recognition, greater credibility, greater ease of getting into debates and forums, the ability to raise a greater proportionate amount of dollars. That all helps explain the greater bang for the buck.”
Except in one CD states like Montana, for example, the overhead for volunteers is lower than the national expenses of multi-state campaigning for a presidential ticket. Local campaign workers need not be overwhelmed by the magnitude of a state-wide or national campaign. Co-ordination issues are more manageable.
David Nolan concludes the interview with Ari Armstrong with this statement, “More importantly, the Congressional level is where national issues and local activism intersect. You can address national issues in a relatively local race. Running for water commissioner is all very good, but all you get to do is talk about water. You can’t really talk about the war on drugs and why we should not be in Macedonia. You can certainly do that at the Congressional level. It’s on the national issues where the libertarian position can be most clearly delineated.”
Positively, because the federal Leviathan state extends into nearly every facet of life in a Congressional district there are no irrelevant issues. Even the water commissioner is likely handling largess from the feds.
By emphasizing Congressional candidates neither am I, nor ,I think is clear, was David Nolan, disparaging presidential campaigning. In fact, the LP is compelled by law in nearly every state to put a presidential slate of electors of the ballot or lose EVERYTHING on the ballot. But even 30 million votes for president is not going to win in the Electoral College. The LP national ticket should make a high priority of supporting Congressional candidates. If there one or two Libertarians in the U S House of Representatives right now, there is no doubt there would have political leverage far exceeding that of many Democratic or Republican Congresspersons. After 2018 and 2020 who can say that the Libertarian votes would sustain an impeachment of a President in the House.