Sounds like a wild convention:
Former Rep. Bob Barr won the Libertarian Party's Presidential nomination at the party's convention in Denver Sunday afternoon. He defeated long-time party activist Mary Ruwart, 54 to 46 percent, on the sixth ballot.
Fourteen candidates ran for the nomination. Former Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Mike Gravel was defeated in the fourth round.
Third place finisher Wayne Allyn Root, an internet gambling entrepreneur, is the vice-presidential nominee. (...)
"I'm sure will we emerge here with the strongest ticket in the history of the Libertarian Party," Barr said in his victory speech.
For a great play by play of the convention, click here.
Now, if Barr-Root actually will be "with the strongest ticket in the history of the Libertarian Party," it would require at least 1.07% of the popular vote, surpassing the 1.06% Edwards Clark scored for a fourth-place finish in 1980. Since that election, the best libertarian performance was 0.50% by Harry Browne in 1996, also for fourth place. In fact, 1984 and 1988 are the only elections where the Libertarian nominee even managed to finish in third-place.
As a former congressman, Bob Barr appears to be a more formidable candidate than the typical third-party crusader. Also, Ron Paul's campaign demonstrated that there was both activist excitement, and a 2-3% national voting base, for an effective libertarian candidate. So, there does seem to be an opening, at least in theory.
However, I just don't think that Barr is going to be able to make a real impact on this election. In fact, he probably won't even break the 1.06%, 1980 high-water for Libertarians. For one thing, after decline sets in, third-parties in American never recover. The No Names, the Populists, the Socialists, The Progressives, the Reforms, the Greens-all of them went into permanent decline after an initial splash. Further, you can't change leaders in mid-stream, and Bob Barr is not going to attract the same support that Ron Paul had. The activist excitement around Ron Paul over the last year was closely connected to Ron Paul himself, and will not be easily transferable in such a short period of time. Yet further, even if the activist excitement around Ron Paul was transferable, it isn't going to a Libertarian-come-lately like Bob Barr. Even the Libertarian Party was lukewarm about Barr, as it took him six ballots to receive a narrow delegate majority of 54%.
So, while I would like to believe that Bob Barr will receive more than 1.06% of the vote, I just don't think it will happen. In fact, with Ralph Nader in the field, he won't even get all of the non-ideological, "f**k you" vote, which is the roughly 1% of the electorate that always chooses third-parties no matter what. It is nice to dream of Barr pulling down 3% of the vote, with his supporters drawing roughly 2-1 from the McCain camp, but in truth he will probably get about 1% of the vote, with about two-thirds of his supporters being people who would never vote for either McCain or Obama. So, Barr might swing the election 0.1% in favor of Obama, and thus probably cancel out Nader. There is an outside chance even this small amount will swing a state or two, but not much.
Third parties will not be a significant factor in this presidential election. If Ron Paul himself had run for the Libertarian nomination, it would be a different story. Alas, 'twas not to be.
Update: Another reason Barr is unlikely to be a factor is that third-party performance is actually on the decline (or, at best, stagnant). Click here and here for my post-2006 election analysis on this subject.