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Libertarians Pick Barr as Presidential Nominee


NPR's Jeff Brady reports from Denver.

JEFF BRADY: Before Bob Barr could win the Libertarian Party nomination he had to overcome more than a few skeptics.


MIKE MCMANN: I wouldn't trust him half as far as I could throw him, and hopefully we get a decent true and long-time standing Libertarian to get the nomination this year.

BRADY: California delegate Mike McMann proudly wore an anti-Barr button on his shirt. He says Barr doesn't look like a Libertarian to him.

MCMANN: He voted for the Patriot Act, he altered the Defense of Marriage Act, both of which are highly unpopular within the Libertarian Party because they both highly increased government powers.

BRADY: To prove this, he told delegates what he's been doing recently.

BOB BARR: And that is working to take the U.S.A. Patriot Act, drive a stake through its heart, shoot it, burn it, cut off its head, burn it again and scatter its ashes to the four corners of the world.


BRADY: Clearly, a majority of Libertarian delegates got the message, but they may have been thinking about more than whether Barr would make a good president. Patty Hotsinger(ph) is from Nampa, Idaho.

PATTY HOTSINGER: A presidential election isn't likely for the Libertarians. That would be a real fluke. But what we always hope for is that we have a candidate who can get a fair shake at delivering the message.

BRADY: Barr won the nomination, but the process wasn't easy. It took about four hours and six ballots. He beat back 13 challengers. Not everyone was pleased with the choices. Maryland delegate Lorenzo Gaztañaga explains.

LORENZO GAZTA: Right now, you're listening to the chance for a NOTA, which is none of the above. We always keep none of the above in our ballot. This is a permanent thing. Also, anybody can write in anything.

BRADY: As the delegates were voting their sixth ballot, one of the other candidates, Las Vegas sports handicapper Wayne Root, announced he was giving up his bid for the presidential nomination and joining Bob Barr as his running mate. Root stood with his arm around Barr on the convention floor.

WAYNE ROOT: Unidentified Man: It sure did.

BRADY: Unidentified People: (Chanting) Barr, Root, Barr, Root, Barr, Root.


SMITH: Ladies and gentlemen, I want to present to you the 2008 nominee of the Libertarian Party for president of the United States, Bob Barr.


BRADY: Even during his acceptance speech, Barr sought to reassure skeptics.

BARR: This team, this candidate will not let you down. This will be an historic and positive campaign.

BRADY: Barr was asked if his presence could hurt the apparent Republican nominee, John McCain. Barr said he's not a spoiler, and he's running to win, but the Barr-Root ticket likely will hurt the GOP, according to Ron Rappaport. He's an expert on third parties at the College of William and Mary.

RON RAPPAPORT: Well, I think that this is an outcome that Democrats would very much like. Because what you have in both Root and Barr are two people who really are Libertarian Republicans.

BRADY: Barr has been out of office since losing his congressional seat in the 2002 primary. Now his political career appears to be revived. The same cannot be said for Mike Gravel. The former senator from Alaska dropped out of the Democratic race for president to become one of the 14 Libertarian candidates. The 77-year-old Gravel said this was his last campaign. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Denver.



This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.