RJ Harris wins Illinois Libertarian straw poll, and other updates on LP Presidential nomination campaigns

According to http://rjharris2012.com/, Harris won a straw poll of attendees at the recent Illinois LP state convention (revolving story at the top of the page, I see no way to link to the story directly). The site also has video from that convention of Harris debating fellow candidates for the Libertarian presidential nomination: Roger Gary, Lee Wrights, Carl Person, and Bill Still. The video was also supposed to be live, but from what I have read there was a glitch. However, it appears that it is now available.

Harris was also at one point leading in an internet straw poll at LPMNDC.org. However, as of this writing it appears that Jim Burns has jumped back ahead. The current numbers are:

Jim Burns
137 34.2%

R. J. Harris
124 30.9%

Lee Wrights
64 16%

NOTA
27 6.7%

Angela Keaton
19 4.7%

Wayne Root
9 2.2%

Roger Gary
5 1.2%

Bill Still
5 1.2%

Carl Person
4 1%

John M. Finan
0 0%

Joy Waymire
0 0%

According to the latest update of presidential candidates at LP.org, Gary, Harris, Person and Wrights are the candidates filed with the FEC, along with James Ogle (who is not listed as having a campaign website).

The non-FEC filing candidates listed are Burns, Waymire, Robert Milnes and Bill Still. All of those except Still are listed as having campaign websites.

Of the remaining candidates in the LPMNDC poll, Wayne Root says he has not made up his mind as to whether he will run, although other people widely regard him as a candidate. Keaton announced a candidacy for 2012 back in 2008, but has since stopped her active involvement in LP leadership (and possibly the party as a whole), has not actively pursued the candidacy, and it appears that the announcement was likely to have been either a joke or that she has thought better of it. John Finan was a candidate for the 2008 nomination; if he is running again this time, this is the first I can remember having heard of it.

Also, at one time the poll listed Tom Knapp, who was previously an announced candidate for the nomination but has now quit the LP and electoral politics and had his name removed. He had some votes in the poll prior to being removed; I don’t know what was done with those votes.

Other candidates who had at one time been running for the 2012 nomination include Michael Jingozian, who has since announced that he will not run, and Jim Duensing, who may or may not have dropped out (I have been unable to find out for sure).

-paulie

14 thoughts on “RJ Harris wins Illinois Libertarian straw poll, and other updates on LP Presidential nomination campaigns

  1. Jeremy C. Young

    Instead of finishing what I was supposed to be doing tonight, I went ahead and watched this entire debate. Here are my thoughts on what I saw and heard. Interested readers should know that I’m a supporter of third parties but not a Libertarian, so my interest here is to have the strongest possible Libertarian win the Presidential nomination. I’m not an expert in Libertarian ideology, so I’ll leave issues of that sort up to real Libertarians and just tackle the presentation aspects of the candidates.

    I was excited to see this debate because it’s the first time all five of the serious candidates have shared a stage. I think these will in fact be the only five serious candidates except for 1) last-minute entrants or 2) Wayne Root, who has sort of been running a shadow campaign all along. Which is to say, I think we’ll have these five and no others for at least the next few months.

    First of all, I think Libertarians can feel confident in the fact that this is a field full of actual ideological Libertarians. Lee Wrights and Roger Gary are what you might call “pure” Libertarians; I doubt anyone in the party would find them deviating from the party line in any significant way. RJ Harris, Carl Person, and Bill Still are all Libertarian-oriented people. When they deviate from the party line on occasion, they are being heretical Libertarians, not impostors. I know there has been some concern about Harris because he ran in a Republican primary, but my sense is that he was and is by and large a Libertarian ideologically. (I wonder how the Republicans reacted when he told them he wanted an immediate withdrawal from all foreign wars?) This is a big difference from 2008, where some of the major candidates were only Libertarians if you could shoehorn their records into a Libertarian box (Gravel) or if you believed they were completely different people from what they’d been five years earlier (Barr, Root).

    That said, I do think that Gary and Person are non-starters. Gary seems like a nice man and a fine Libertarian, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a worse debate performance in a third-party presidential campaign. Gary’s presentation was slow and halting, even in his opening and closing statements (which appeared unrehearsed). He seemed old, which is partly because he was the oldest candidate there, but he’s not significantly older than Still, who seemed much more chipper. Gary repeatedly stopped to haggle with the moderator about meaningless issues. His discussion of his Mexican friends was…dated, to say the least. (On the other hand, he declared his support for an almost completely open border, which I suspect will surprise a lot of Libertarians.) He showed absolutely no improvement from the MA debate last month. Overall, his presentation seemed lazy and sloppy. He even stated that he didn’t expect even to visit all 50 states, let alone campaign there. I don’t know why he’s such a poor candidate — his party pedigree certainly speaks highly for him — but if he can’t step it up, he’s going to be a non-factor in this race.

    Person gave a somewhat better presentation, but yet again was done in by his crackpot ideas — and I mean crackpot from a Libertarian perspective, not from my perspective. His campaign strategy apparently consists of terraforming a town of 10,000 people — in what, the three months after the convention? — using some sort of crazy Libertarian media strategy that would produce universal employment there, then leveraging the media coverage of this miracle into a national campaign. Um, good luck with that, Carl. He repeatedly rambled and strayed off topic in the debate. Again, even if I didn’t have serious reservations about the company he keeps, I’d consider Person a non-factor in the race.

    The remaining three candidates — Wrights, Harris, and Still — all presented themselves very well. I think any of them would be a credit to the LP as Presidential candidates. At the same time, they also present three clearly different approaches to the race. Wrights would focus on the war, Harris on freedom and liberty issues, Still on money and finance. Wrights would run an Internet-based strategy, Harris would focus on Oklahoma (where he has some name recognition, and expects to get ballot status for the first time in over a decade) and battleground states, Still would leverage his own following and connect with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

    Of the three, Wrights definitely laid claim to the mantle of “pure” Libertarian standard-bearer in this debate. He’s clearly spent a lot of time with a debate coach, and the results were like night and day compared to his performance in the MA debate last month. It’s hard to believe that just last month he was as bad a public speaker as Roger Gary. (His opening statement still needs work, though.) Wrights displayed an engaging speaking style, well-rehearsed answers to many questions, and a supple ability to think on his feet and to come up with creative answers to difficult questions. He’s also beginning to draw contrasts between himself and other candidates — particularly Harris and Still, whom he clearly considers his main competition at this point. All in all, a very impressive performance by Wrights that left me thinking he could be an effective Chuck Baldwin-style candidate instead of the halting mutterer I was afraid he’d stay.

    Harris presented himself with an air of confidence that suggests he’s the frontrunner, which, right now, I suppose he probably is. He’s clearly benefited from running a major-party campaign and participating in debates with seasoned politicians; his speaking style was measured, articulate, and polished. Some of his rhetoric was aimed at Tea Party types rather than Libertarians — I thought his comparison of himself with George Washington at the beginning wasn’t appropriate for this crowd — but overall, I was impressed with how well he fit in with the lifelong Libertarians. I also thought he handled the abortion issue effectively. He dodged about a bit, but essentially said that while he personally is really upset by abortions, he thinks the decision should be up to the states. That’s not exactly a mainstream Libertarian view, and Wrights called him on it, but it’s Ron Paul’s position, and as such I think a lot of Libertarians might find it acceptable. Meanwhile, those of you with bad memories of Barr and Root will be happy to hear that Harris came out unequivocally against foreign aid (including, specifically, for Israel — which Roger Gary strangely disagreed with him about), unequivocally against all foreign interventions, and unequivocally against the drug war. Given Harris’ definite right-Libertarian lean, I can see him becoming the candidate of the Starr/Root faction of the LP in the event that Root doesn’t run. This actually wouldn’t be a bad thing, as I think Harris would be more palatable to other Libertarians than just about any other candidate that faction could come up with.

    Then there’s Bill Still. Frankly, I was kind of blown away by what I saw from him at this debate. Certainly there were moments where he looked like some guy who’d wandered into a Libertarian Presidential debate and didn’t know what the heck was going on, but I’m going to go ahead and forgive him for all of that given that he’s basically only been in the race for a week. There were other moments, though, where I saw flashes of a magnetic, charismatic speaker who knows Libertarian financial policy like the back of his hand and who might turn out to be the most compelling Libertarian presidential nominee in years. One minute he was reading his opening statement off his laptop like it was a teleprompter, the next he was ad-libbing with gracious humor, the next he was arguing loudly with Wrights about Libertarian priorities. He does have some real deviations from Libertarian orthodoxy — he opposes gutting Social Security because it wouldn’t be possible politically, he wants state banks to issue currency (and isn’t a goldbug), he said he “probably” supports the Fair Tax — but what’s interesting is that they’re eccentric deviations, not ones that suggest he would be a better fit for some other party. He seemed exceedingly raw as a candidate, as indeed he is, but if he’s willing to put in the hard work of running a campaign and developing strategies and issue policies (as Wrights and Harris are doing), he could end up being the best of the bunch. I tend to think he may have the Mike Gravel problem that he has no natural constituency in the party — too many deviations for the Radicals, too radical on fiscal policy for the Reformers — but if he can generate some support, he might find himself getting tapped as a compromise candidate if one of the sides finds itself without a standard-bearer.

    Overall, I was quite heartened by what I saw in the debate. Before watching it, I thought the party had one serious and well-organized candidate (Harris) who wasn’t really a Libertarian. Now, I think there are three such candidates, and all of them are Libertarian to some degree. I think any of them would be a good choice for the party in 2012.

  2. George Whitfield

    Thank you Jeremy. I really appreciate your thoughtful analysis. I am time-stressed and so your report has helped me understand what happened.

  3. paulie Post author

    Jeremy,

    Thank you for the analysis.

    Based on your description, it sounds like both Wrights and Harris are becoming better candidates, overcoming their biggest weak points from my perspective to a significant degree.

    I hope one of the other IPR writers puts your comment up as an article. Unfortunately, unless Trent changes the rules, you are not supposed to do it yourself. I don’t know if I’ll be putting up more articles today. If I do, I’ll definitely consider it for one of the ones I’d like to post, unless you ask me not to.

  4. Jeremy C. Young

    George and Paulie, you’re most welcome! I agree that Wrights and Harris are becoming better candidates. They appear to be running hardworking, disciplined campaigns. Whether Still can join them as a major contender will depend on how disciplined he’s willing to be. I also realized my post makes it sound as if Wrights only wants to run on the Internet; actually, he plans to run hard across the country, he just plans to use the Internet more than most of his competitors.

    I’d be honored to have my comment posted as an article, but it’s all right if it doesn’t happen. Thanks for thinking of me.

  5. Jeremy C. Young

    And also — when was the last time you heard a Libertarian say he “probably” supports the Fair Tax? That’s kind of like a Communist saying he “kinda sorta” disagrees with Marx. It’s such a polarizing issue in the party, most candidates either oppose it or strongly support it and can tell you why. Still’s unfinished ideology is charming. In a couple of months, it won’t be charming; he’ll need to have done the disciplined work to develop these views, or risk looking like an articulate and endearing gadfly.

  6. Herman Cain (Not Able) Announces 6-6-6 plan

    RJ Harris is back in the lead at LPMNDC.org:

    R. J. Harris
    154 34.5%
    Jim Burns
    148 33.1%
    Lee Wrights
    65 14.5%
    NOTA
    27 6%
    Angela Keaton
    19 4.3%
    Wayne Root
    11 2.5%
    Bill Still
    6 1.3%
    Roger Gary
    5 1.1%
    Carl Person
    5 1.1%
    John M. Finan
    0 0%
    Joy Waymire
    0 0%

  7. Pingback: Jeremy Young analyzes Illinois Libertarian presidential debate | Independent Political Report

  8. Jeremy C. Young

    Brian, you’re right, RP did say the Fair Tax would “probably” be better than what we have now! Whaddaya know — nice catch.

    Paulie, thanks for the frontpaging — much appreciated.

  9. paulie Post author

    Paulie, thanks for the frontpaging — much appreciated.

    Thanks for posting it. I didn’t watch the debate myself, so I appreciate the review.

    If you ever see any of my comments that you think would make a good article, please post them as articles as well.

  10. BrianK

    LPMNDC.org Straw Poll Results:

    Bill Still 1205 votes or 65.9%

    R. J. Harris 280 votes or 15.3%

    Jim Burns 186 votes or 10.2%

    Lee Wrights 67 votes or 3.7%

    NOTA 37 votes or 2%

    Angela Keaton 19 votes or 1%

    Wayne Root votes or 16 0.9%

    Carl Person 6 votes or 0.3%

    Roger Gary 5 votes or 0.3%

    John M. Finan 0 votes or 0%

    Joy Waymire 0 votes or 0%

  11. Rob Banks

    Jim Burns was leading at several points, which seemed odd.

    Maybe it was one of those things you could vote in over and over if you felt like it?

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