DENVER — The Libertarian Party Sunday picked former Republican Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia as its presidential candidate, a move that could attract some conservatives turned off by the Republican Party.
"My approach is to reach every single voter we can," Barr said after winning the nomination.
He said his message would be to "get the government out of their pocketbook, out of their homes, out of their schools." He also proposes to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq and from around the world.
Barr was the best known of 14 candidates for the nomination, his fame earned during three terms in Congress when he helped lead the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton for lying to conceal an affair. Supporters hoped that fame would help him draw more news media attention and increase the party's fall vote.
In recent years, he soured on the Republican Party, shifting course to oppose the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act and suspension of civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism, and the rapid rise in domestic government spending.
Barr insisted he's not a spoiler just hoping to hurt Republican John McCain in close contests, as Ralph Nader did to Democrat Al Gore in Florida in 2000. "I'm in this to win," he said.
Yet the party now is on the ballot only in 28 states and gathering petitions in another 20. Party insiders concede that they're unlikely to get on the ballot in Oklahoma and West Virginia because the laws there are so restrictive.
The Libertarian Party, founded in 1971, yearns to break the million vote mark. The closest it's come was in 1980, when nominee Ed Clark was on the ballot in all 50 states and won 921,000 votes.
Libertarians lost what might have been their best shot at cracking the million vote level when Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, declined their invitation to seek the nomination.
Paul, who was the Libertarian presidential candidate in 1988, instead ran for the Republican nomination this year. He tapped into a deep reservoir of support in the Republican Party, raised millions of dollars, and continues to turn out committed supporters.
Though he failed to win a primary, he opted to remain in the party and will try to make a strong statement at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota.
Barr was challenged by many longtime Libertarians as an outsider who only quit the Republican Party and joined theirs two years ago.
It took him six ballots to win the nomination against an eclectic group that included former Democratic Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska as well as a Las Vegas oddsmaker and a California cancer patient who credits his survival to marijuana.
His primary opposition came from Mary Ruwart, a longtime Libertarian activist and candidate from Texas who so opposes government that she once wrote that the government should not even regulate child pornography.
"Children who willingly participate in sexual acts have the right to make that decision as well, even if it's distasteful to us personally," she wrote in a book on her Libertarian philosophy.
"Some children will make poor choices just as some adults do in smoking and drinking to excess." When we outlaw child pornography, the prices paid for child performers rise, increasing the incentives for parents to use children against their will."
Readers wanting to know more should read Will Libertarians draw conservatives from McCain? at http://www.mcclatchydc.com/254/story/38417.html
For more on the Barr campaign, www.barr08.com