Barr won’t debate other third-party candidates

Reason‘s Dave Weigel recently asked Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr if he would debate other third-party candidates. He said no, and reasoned that the Libertarian Party — unlike the Greens or Constitution Party — is a truly “national” party.

Because of that, because we are far ahead of the other third parties in Zogby’s very legitimate, non-partisan poll results, we believe I will be the only candidate at the end of the day who has a reasonable shot at gaining access in the national debates, the Commission on Presidential Debates. That is our goal. Our goal is not to settle for debates that are not national in scope and do not indicate to the American people that they have a right to, and will have a real choice to, go beyond the two major parties.

Barr, of course, was heavily criticized for his failure to debate his fellow Libertarians in pursuit of the party’s nomination. He entered the race after most states had had their conventions, and avoided several debates in Denver. The only debate Barr has ever participated in was carefully regulated to discourage candidate criticisms.

Chuck Baldwin and Cynthia McKinney have each said that they would debate Barr and their other peers. Ralph Nader has a history of eschewing “lesser” candidates.

67 thoughts on “Barr won’t debate other third-party candidates

  1. G.E. Post author

    Barr thinks he’s in the same league as McCain and Obama… The sad thing is that he IS — from a moral perspective.

  2. Sean Scallon

    It may very well be the LP will be on more state ballots than the CP or the Greens but the LP won’t be everywhere either and the LP is damn lucky it got a ballot deadline extension in Maine. There are many states where the Greens and CP are far more active than the LP.

  3. G.E. Post author

    Oh, and can someone remind me why I’m supposed to hate Dave Weigel? He seems like a very good journalist.

  4. Travis Maddox

    I met with some of Barr’s people after his nom. They said they were not going to try to get LP support but go after independents and republicans. They said they felt the LP should support them without having to work or spend money to get their support. I thought at the time it was the wrong strategy, reminds me of McCain’s.

  5. Thomas L. Knapp

    Barr participated in a debate with Root and Gravel, sponsored by Reason magazine.

    He also participated in the “official” candidate debate at the LP’s national convention. That debate was in no way “carefully regulated to discourage candidate criticisms” (I represented the Kubby campaign in the negotiations that produced the debate format and rules).

    Did Barr participate in the FNN debate with Root and Gravel? I can’t remember whether he did or not.

  6. Trent Hill

    The Reason Magazine event was a “forum” not a debate. They never argued against each other,just answered questions from the moderator.

  7. Spence

    I have to say that this is very hypocritical of a candidate in his situation. A debate of the 4 third party candidates could be sponsored independently and then sold to regional networks, particularly in the midwest and such. It’s not the debate he wants, but it could help him into the one he needs.

    But alas, he won’t take up this idea. He’ll continue targeting these ‘follow-me’ conservative lemmings, instead of courting both sides. Oh well…

  8. svf

    Maybe he comes off as arrogant, but the reality is that the debates among the third party candidates are a waste of time and effort. They are only broadcast on C-SPAN, if at all, and receive ZERO other media coverage.

    So while it is a futile crusade, I have no problem with Barr’s “me vs. the big boys or nothin'” rhetoric.

  9. Trent Hill

    svf,

    And why should McCain or Obama take him up on his debate offers? He’s a lesser candidate, just like Baldwin/Mckinney are lesser candidates to him.

    Barr is INCAPABLE of applying a consistent ethic.

  10. Spence

    Perhaps he feels that if he acts almighty and supremely enough, the other two will invite him to their little party. Silly kids and their cool culture.

  11. svf

    And why should McCain or Obama take him up on his debate offers?

    This has nothing to do with it. Barr is trying (and so far, regrettably failing) to present the Libertarian Party as a viable national alternative to the GOP and Dems. He is not presenting himself as an alternative to the CP, Greens, or Nader.

    It would be inconsistent for him to pursue a debate with anyone OTHER than McBama.

  12. Trent Hill

    svf,

    He has petitioned for, and failed to recieve, access to the debates–based upon the merits that the criterion is “too hard”.

    He is doing the same thing to the other minor-party candidates. Shame on him. Now stop being an apologist and open your eyes.

  13. Spence

    Actually, by that logic, he won’t debate anyone at all. Firstly, Barr is not “trying to present the Libertarian Party as a viable national alternative to.. the Dems”, merely the Republicans only. So by this extent, the only person who he would want to debate is McCain, who- fearing for his own campaign’s loss of constituents, would immediately shun Barr anyway.

  14. svf

    He has petitioned for, and failed to recieve, access to the debates–based upon the merits that the criterion is “too hard”.

    I’m pretty sure his first goal was to actually achieve the required polling numbers.

    Since that ain’t gonna happen, the next step is to challenge the criterion, file lawsuits, etc.

    And since that ain’t gonna work either, the final action is to stage some kind of civil disobedience.

    My eyes are fine, how about you? Have previous third-party only debates had any measurable benefit for any of the candidates and/or parties involved? Please explain.

  15. svf

    Barr is not “trying to present the Libertarian Party as a viable national alternative to.. the Dems”, merely the Republicans only.

    Once again, my supposedly closed “apologist” eyes seem to perceive an entirely different reality…

    If not also courting Dems, why bother showing up at the Netroots Nation lefty blogger’s conference?

    Why team up with the Strange Bedfellows anti-FISA folks?

    Why repeatedly state that Bush has been a worse president than Clinton was?

    Why repeatedly state his desire to form a coalition that includes “blue collar Democrats” displeased with Obama?

    Why do multiple polls seem to indicate Barr is pulling more voters from Obama rather than McCain?

  16. langa

    Regardless of any pragmatic benefits, I would like to see Barr participate as a matter of principle.

    Unfortunately, acting on principle has never been one of Barr’s strong suits.

  17. Spence

    “Once again, my supposedly closed “apologist” eyes seem to perceive an entirely different reality…”

    First of all, I didn’t make that slam against you. Please refrain from being an asshole simply because you would like to bash Trent Hill some more.

    And second, none of those examples you’ve given directly point out to him courting Democratic voters, merely independents without a home. Hell if you wanna get that selective with a few chance occurrences (particularly his Netroots appearance), I can too- with each and every time that he has said himself that he is the clear, conservative choice and that the Libertarian ticket is the true path for the independents and the GOP.

    One incident that I can think of, that ironically you didn’t and might have helped your case, was his participation in a global warming event with Al Gore. Fine. No deeper insight into this and how he skidded on the edges of a flipflop here, let’s say this is the only genuine time that he actually courted a Democratic audience, and what has it really netted him? Did he come out and give a libertarian view? Nope, not at all.

    Marketing yourself to the left is much more than just opposing FISA or appearing at a GW seminar- and desiring to form a coalition to slam Obama for reasons which would most likely be unlibertarian. To deliver your message to the left, you need to actually tune your message to the way they want to hear it, to earn converts- or leave it intentionally ambiguous for all. But he hasn’t done that.

  18. G.E. Post author

    Knapp – B.S. If a candidate mentioned an opponent, the opponent got time to rebut. If the candidates had called Barr out on everything bad about him, he would have been able to hog the entire debate. This is another reason Barr aided candidates in participating in the debate. Furthermore, the whole setup was rigged. Live in denial if you’d like. Oh, and those other “debates” were not debates.

  19. G.E. Post author

    The Defraud Caucus has succeeded in turning the Party of Principle into the Party of Pragmatism.

    Too bad it is headed for financial ruin due to the spoils system defended by Criminal Redpath.

  20. svf

    One incident that I can think of, that ironically you didn’t and might have helped your case, was his participation in a global warming event with Al Gore.

    I thank you, sir!

    … did he come out and give a libertarian view? Nope, not at all.

    “I remain firmly committed to free market solutions and innovations to address this issue; not tax-driven policies.”

    not libertarian at all… ????

  21. Spence

    Acknowledgment that global warming is caused by humans is not a libertarian view. That is perpetuation of a myth. So while his solution is libertarian, the view itself is false and is better suited for an ambiguous environmental reply. Still not what liberals want to hear.

  22. George Donnelly

    Barr should organize a debate that includes all third party candidates who are on the ballot in 25 or more states. Now that would be useful and interesting.

  23. svf

    Barr should organize a debate that includes all third party candidates who are on the ballot in 25 or more states. Now that would be useful and interesting.

    Why? Again, what is accomplished by debating candidates you’re not even campaigning against?

    Barr, Nader, McKinney, Baldwin… they all have legitimate and significant issues with McCain and Obama (and the two party duopoly in general), not with each other.

    There’s no point spending a couple hours “debating” the only two candidates who didn’t show up.

    Anyone who’s watched one of these things in previous years would have to agree….?

  24. svf

    they all have legitimate and significant issues with McCain and Obama (and the two party duopoly in general), not with each other.

    … before someone jumps on this, I’m not implying they don’t have numerous disagreements with each other, but Barr isn’t running against Nader and vice versa, etc. , etc.

  25. LaineRBT

    I saw a video of one of Nader’s stump speeches and he said he would be happy to debate Barr. Too bad Barr is as arogant as McCain and Obama.

  26. Spence

    I see what you’re saying, and the probability of it becoming that, but you still miss the point. Barr acts as if he and he alone has the only right to challenge the duopoly. That’s no way to break the system.

    Of course Barr is running against Nader, McKinney, and Yuck Baldwin, as well as Obama and McCain. Sure, he may do better than the other third party candidates, even if not all the polls agree (he seems to only acknowledge an old Zogby poll from back in June), but it’s the principle of the matter. If he was sincere about that, then why not invite the other candidates to join him in efforts to challenge the CPD?

  27. Thomas L. Knapp

    GE,

    You write:

    “If a candidate mentioned an opponent, the opponent got time to rebut. ”

    Nope. Those were not the rules. You’re leaving two requirements out between “mention of opponent” and “time to rebut.”

  28. George Donnelly

    A debate of “minor” party candidates would be an opportunity to show the quality of persons that are outside the two-party duopoly.

    It would also be an opportunity to have a genuine debate, and not a series of carefully constructed sound-bites, which would also reflect well on these “minor” candidates and by comparison have something useful to say about the Republicrats.

  29. Mike Gillis

    I have no problem with Barr not wanting to participate in third party debates.

    No one covers them – aside from C-SPAN – and fewer watch them.

    And let’s be frank. If at least one major party nominee isn’t participating, it’s a “kid’s table” debate.

    Remember Thanksgiving dinner when you were five years old? How all of the grow-ups sat at the big table and the kids were all put at a smaller table in another room?

    The reason that people like Barr and Nader don’t take part in things like this is that without at least one of Obama or McCain, it only serves to make them look small.

    In 1980, John Anderson got a chance to debate Ronald Reagan on television, when Carter refused to show up. By having a chance to stand toe to toe with Reagan, Anderson got to show people that he was equally worthy of voter consideration and that he could stand his ground against “the big boys”.

    If I had my way, all candidates with an EC majority in ballot access would debate, but the simple fact is that a prominent third party candidate like Nader or Barr will only get dragged down in most voters’ estimation by sharing a stage with lesser known quantities, instead of Obama or McCain.

    It’s a waste of time and it makes people like Barr and Nader look small and pointless.

    With the exception of Charles Jay, all of these candidates aren’t campaigning against other third party nominees, they’re campaigning against the big two. And without Obama or McCain present, third party debates come across like the youngsters at the kids’ table bitching about the absent grownups.

  30. Fred Church Ortiz

    I disagree with this:

    the simple fact is that a prominent third party candidate like Nader or Barr will only get dragged down in most voters’ estimation by sharing a stage with lesser known quantities, instead of Obama or McCain.

    …because I agree with this:

    No one covers them – aside from C-SPAN – and fewer watch them.

  31. George Phillies

    The Barr debate strategy is in my opinion delusional.

    Mind you, the last public phase of that campaign was to target raising$201,000 by August 24, of which they have thus far raised $50,000 on their on-line clock, and some amount on their off-line efforts. (As a comparison, for the period up to June 1, these amounts were small, because the 6/2 reading of $206,059 is very little larger than the absolute total receipts to date through May 30, as found on their FEC reports.)

    For the same period, the LNC has raised $16,000, apparently on-line, and unclear amounts elsewhere, which will add little to the Barr effort.

  32. Sivarticus

    The only other candidate Barr should consider debating is Nader. These are the only two other third party candidates. I fail to see why either Nader or Barr should waste time debating Baldwin, Keyes, McKinney, or candidates from various socialist sects.

    Baldwin is the only one of those who will even have a shot at getting to .5% or higher. I respect him on a number of issues, but he just isn’t in the same league as Barr and Nader. And I don’t see any way he’s going to get there either.

  33. Steve Perkins

    He entered the race after most states had had their conventions, and avoided several debates in Denver.

    How many debates were there? I count “one” that Barr missed.

  34. Gene Trosper

    I think it’s a good tactic not to debate other third party candidates. It elevates you above the fray and gives voters a subliminal message that you are a “player”. When I managed Bill Reed’s congressional campaign back in 2000, I utilized that exact strategy with pretty good results. The media began covering Bill more than the Natural Law candidate because we approached the campaign as “not another third party effort”.

  35. Robert Milnes

    I say it is very possible for a fusion ticket to poll around 15% right from the get go. So the solution is: replace Barr/Root with fusion ticket.

  36. Anti-Corporate

    For now, I think that Barr and Nader should both continue targeting the Google / YouTube debate in New Orleans and the three CPD debates. If they agree now to debate each other, it releases some of the pressure to let them into debates with Obama and McCain. If Barr and Nader get into the Google debate and McCain and Obama both participate, they may have some chance of getting into the CPD debates.

    However, Obama appears to be ignoring / refusing Google’s invitation. If he’s out, the McCain is almost certainly out. If that happens, the whole thing may be canceled. If that happens, there’s no way anyone but Obama and McCain will be allowed into the CPD debates. If/when it is established officially that Obama and McCain are out of the Google debate, then I think Barr and Nader should try to get Google still to put it on and to invite the two of them to replace Obama and McCain.

  37. Mike Gillis

    Anti-Corporate has the right idea. So long as at least McCain is willing to debate Nader and Barr at the Google debate, it will draw press.

    At the very least, it’s a boost for Nader and Barr and a chance for McCain to stick it to Obama for dodging a debate.

  38. Thomas L. Knapp

    GE,

    I assume that your “care to elaborate?” refers to this:

    GE: “If a candidate mentioned an opponent, the opponent got time to rebut. ”

    Me: Nope. Those were not the rules. You’re leaving two requirements out between “mention of opponent” and “time to rebut.”

    So sure, I’ll elaborate.

    If:

    1) A candidate mentioned an opponent; AND

    2) Said opponent protested that the mention constituted a personal attack; AND

    3) The moderator agreed that the mention had indeed been a personal attack; THEN

    4) The attacked candidate would receive 30 seconds to rebut said attack.

  39. Thomas L. Knapp

    Peter,

    I don’t think you’re correct.

    Barr has made it very clear that he’s going after conservative voters who don’t support McCain.

    Jay has made it very clear that he’s supporting libertarian voters who don’t support Barr.

    Those are two entirely different groups of voters.

  40. sunshinebatman

    Nader is an independent candidate, not a third-party candidate, so Barr still may debate him at some point, I suppose.

    I think you need to poll 10% to get in the google/youtube NOLa debate. If Barr can’t crack it, and the time is getting close, the campaign has failed, thought it will still likely be the most successful LP prez campaign.

  41. Steve Perkins

    Almost every State Convention that I attended had a candidate debate. The National Convention had *four* of them.

    I’m not aware of any State Convention that hosted a debate at the Denver convention. As for pre-Denver state activities… the Georgia convention featured an oh-so impressive display of Root facing off against Imperato. Your state’s mileage may vary.

    As for the “four debates” at Denver… I count the real debate, the unofficial debate, and some Troofer spectacle that turned into a circus when someone tried to walk off with somebody else’s ball-point pen. Gee… I can’t imagine why Barr (or anyone else in their right mind) wouldn’t have done the full tour.

  42. G.E. Post author

    Well, there was also a debate concurrent with the “Troofer” (statist slur) forum.

    So, for the notion that there was only one debate at Denver, you’re wrong.

  43. Steve Perkins

    Dammit! First I learn that the word retarded is “hate speech”, and now Troofer is off the table too? This week sucks…

  44. G.E. Post author

    You can say whatever you want. Libertarians don’t try to speech police. I was just letting your fellow statist know that using that term exposes you as a shill for the State.

  45. Mike Gillis

    “Libertarians don’t try to speech police.”

    What are you talking about? You just jumped down Perkins’ throat for calling a spade a spade.

    Calling out bad ideas as bad ideas isn’t policing them. It’s challenging them. Because ideas SHOULD be challenged. And they are not inherently deserving of respect, no more than they can withstand scrutiny.

    Otherwise, I’m sure you’re going to call me out for “slurring” people when they present all other sorts of ridiculous ideas, like the Flat Earthers and Holocaust deniers.

  46. G.E. Post author

    “Jumped down his throat?”

    Wow.

    I parenthetically noted that “Troofer” is a “statist slur” in my opinion.

    I think I steered clear of Mr. Perkins’s throat.

    Really. Look at yourself. You’re saying THIS is “jumping down someone’s throat”?

    Well, there was also a debate concurrent with the “Troofer” (statist slur) forum.

    Then you are “reality deprived”.

    BTW: Holocaust deniers object to the notion that the state committed evil. 9/11 “Truthers” are the opposite.

    Whoops.. Did I just “jump down your throat”? I can’t be sure since you seem soooo sensitive. Can you go out in public without staining your t-shirt?

  47. Ross Levin

    I haven’t read any of the other comments, but here’s my view:

    I’m not surprised at all that Barr is taking a position that gives as little information to the voting public as possible, and he is playing a smaller version of the same games that major campaigns play.

  48. ElfNinosMom

    How amusing that Barr points to only one poll showing him at 6% (which was interestingly enough an internet poll, which explains why he feels the need to say it is “very legitimate”), while ignoring the dozens of conventional polls which are every bit as legitimate and non-partisan (if not more so, since internet polls can be easily manipulated) but which all consistently show him polling at 2-3%. Furthermore, the polls show him losing support. I looked at two polls a few days ago (the Zogby telephone poll and a Harris poll) and those polls showed he was polling at 2%, and worse, that he had lost about half the support he had when they first started including him.

    Even if we look at only the Zogby poll in question, he still has nowhere near enough popular support to get his foot in the door during a McCain/Obama debate. He certainly isn’t trailing so far ahead of the other third party candidates that it is somehow beneath him to debate them.

    So yes, Barr should debate the other third party candidates. At this point, he needs LOTS of additional support, since he is nowhere near (even according to the Zogby poll he prefers to mention) the 15% support necessary to participate in the PDC debates.

    To not do so, when the vast majority of polls show him running head-to-head against Ralph Nader, is only arrogance.

  49. Steve LaBianca

    Thomas L. Knapp // Aug 14, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Barr participated in a debate with Root and Gravel, sponsored by Reason magazine.

    I wasn’t aware of such a debate, and frankly, neither did virtually everybody else.

    He also participated in the “official” candidate debate at the LP’s national convention. That debate was in no way “carefully regulated to discourage candidate criticisms”

    Wow Tom! That debate may not have been “Carefully regulated”, but controversial questions, like the two I put in were swept aside. Barr, W.A.R. and yes Kubby and Ruwart could have been put on the spot, but weren’t. This was no debate . . . it was just a show for C-Span.

    Did Barr participate in the FNN debate with Root and Gravel? I can’t remember whether he did or not.

    No, he blew that off.

    Finally, the “unofficial” debate in Denver had participation of EVERY candidate (not John Finan) EXCEPT Barr. Barr thinks he is too good for libertarians. He essentially thumbed his nose at Libertarian delegates . . . he was confident that he had the votes to win the nomination. He’s a piece of Sh*t!

  50. G.E. Post author

    Yeah, and so did Bush. Twice. And the 14th amendment was “ratified.”

    Barr did not have the votes necessary to win the nomination.

  51. Steve LaBianca

    I said, “He essentially thumbed his nose at Libertarian delegates . . . he was confident that he had the votes to win the nomination.”

    That is, Barr thumbed his nose at REAL Libertarians who were delegates. A large contingent of delegates who supported Barr in Denver are phonies, i.e. conservatives.

    Also remember, without W.A.R. supporters (more phony Libertarians), Barr would not have won.

  52. G.E. Post author

    Steve – No. Without the Gravel (socialists) and Phillies (libertine liberals) delegates, he would not have won. WAR supporters going over to Barr was always expected. The f’d up thing is the commies Gravel brought with him along with the libertine wing that supported Philies both gave Barr the votes he needed to win a plurality (not a majority) of the delegates.

  53. Steve LaBianca

    G.E., by my count, Barr beat Mary by 48 votes on the 6th ballot. I didn’t ask each and every Gravel and Phillies supporters how they voted when their candidate was dropped from the ballot, but most of the Phillies supporters (especially the Outright Libertarians) went to Mary, or NOTA. Unless 2/3 of Gravel’s 71 votes went to Barr, I don’t agree.

  54. Steve LaBianca

    Keep in mind that a few of Gravel’s votes may have been Phillies voters when he was still in the running.

  55. Steve LaBianca

    Also keep in mind that Barr only got 101 of W.A.R.’s 165 delegate votes from the 5th ballot.

  56. G.E. Post author

    I’ve done an analysis on this matter — you can search for yourself. But the easy fact of the matter is that Barr’s final tally was more than the first-round sum of Barr + Root.

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