Austin Cassidy's Independent Political Report posted an analysis of Google News hits today, which concluded that "Bob Barr, Ralph Nader dominate online coverage of alternative candidates."
"Bob Barr, Libertarian Party" makes up 58 percent of the total share, while "Ralph Nader" comes in a distant second with 34 percent. No other candidate surpassed three percent. Green Party front-runner Cynthia McKinney was in third at 2.5 percent, and Constitution Party nominee Chuck Baldwin was in fourth at 2.3 percent. Nine other candidates from various "minor parties" each had less than one percent.
It is no surprise that Nader is doing so well. This is his third consecutive run for the presidency. How is it that Bob Barr dominating?
Before he even began his campaign for the presidency, Bob Barr was already attracting attention in the third party world. Since America is trapped in a two party, left-right paradigm, it helps as an outsider to be a former insider in one of the two major parties. Barr is viewed as a former Republican by the media much more than a Libertarian. This alone will draw more mainstream media attention to Barr.
To start off his campaign, Barr hired campaign manager Russ Verney. After advising Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996, Verney knows a thing or two about getting a third party candidate some attention. Next, Barr consulted with the Ron Paul campaign, and hired some of the same people to create his campaign web site. The web site is updated frequently throughout each day with blog posts and other content.
In the first two weeks of Barr's general election campaign, he managed to attain appearances on some highly rated prime time cable television shows. He was a guest on Comedy Central's Colbert Report. After a successful segment with Glen Beck on CNN, he was invited back to do a full hour interview, which was also featured on Beck's daytime radio show. Televised appearances always pick up blog chatter, especially when they appear on YouTube seemingly within seconds of their live broadcast.
Finally, what I attribute most to Barr's domination of the online media is a tool that is hardly mentioned as a key to successful campaigning, press releases. From the first days following the nomination, the Barr campaign has been printing out press releases on a daily basis. If a day goes by without one, the next day will have two.
These aren't boring press releases or the three paragraph cookie-cutter releases that I often find myself snoozing through. They discuss hard issues in detail, and many of them are quite provocative.
A May 30th release took on former Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee for his criticisms on libertarianism:
"Perhaps Governor Huckabee is forgetting that it is compassionate conservatism that led to our record budget deficits and explosion in the size of government. His vision of more of the same will lead his party deeper into the quagmire," warned Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate for president, "I am reminded of then-Governor Ronald Reagan saying ‘I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism’ and that ‘The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.’ The problem we face isn’t too much libertarianism, but not enough of it."
A June 3rd release accused his major party opponents John McCain and Barack Obama of "playing a petty game of 'gotcha' while Iraqis demonstrate against the Bush administration’s plan to create long-term, if not permanent, bases in Iraq."
On June 4th, Barr attracted some attention in a press release urging weekly debates between himself, Obama, and McCain.
On June 5th, Barr drew on some heavy statistics to discredit the Lieberman-Warner bill, saying "Don’t Wreck the Economy in the Name of the Environment." Is it worth a $1 trillion tax hike, or $1,300 per American household to cut potential warming only .013 degress (Celcius)?
On June 8th, Barr's "Time to Remove Troops from South Korea" reminded me of Ron Paul's exciting discussions of non-interventionist policy. He again supported his argument with some rousing statistics.
The South has an economy estimated to be 40 times as large as that of North Korea; South Korea has twice the North’s population and a vast technological edge. "It is time for real leadership on this important national security matter,” Barr said, adding that "maintaining a large and costly American military presence in Korea largely because that’s the way it’s been done for more than half a century makes little sense."
He went on to point out that South Korea has been sending money and food to the government in Pyongyang.
That same day, Barr told McCain in another release, "No Spying Outside the Law."
"Along with President George W. Bush, Sen. McCain seems to believe that the president, like the British king of old, possesses unconstrained and unreviewable power," warns Barr. "This is a truly shocking claim: when the American colonists created a new nation, they were determined to limit both government and executive power."
Sen. McCain has sought to distance himself from President Bush, but he now sounds like a member of the Bush administration. "The Constitution must come before any political party," says Barr.
Today, Barr held a much anticipated press conference regarding U.S. relations with Iran. He called for an emphasis on diplomacy, rather than threats, criticizing McCain for his "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" tune.
These press releases are a strategic treasure for the Barr campaign. They trigger widespread chatter in the blogosphere. They also take on a strategy that has shown to be successful for alternative candidates. If the media will only focus on the establishment candidates, and the media also emphasizes gossip as a means to be entertaining, then an alternative candidate must spur controversy with those candidates. One of Ron Paul's most successful periods of media attention was when he took on Rudy Giuliani on the issue of foreign policy, calling him out for neglecting the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Report.
Barr has aimed at the weak spots of both the major candidates. Obama is trying to appear as an "anti-war" candidate (this blog has exposed him as an imperialist). Barr showed how Obama shares a policy with McCain which is unpopular with the people of Iraq as well as the war opposition in America, permanent bases. He then went after McCain for a weakness the mainstream media as well as the bloggers enjoy criticizing him for, his close association with the Bush administration.
I am hardly a Barr fan, and it will take a lot more than some press releases and YouTube one-liners for him to get my vote, but I have to give him credit for getting off to an impressive start for a third party campaign. With a quality staff, a constant stream of activity from the campaign, and a little provocation, Barr has made himself the most talked about alternative candidate these past few weeks. The other alternative candidates should take a lesson from Bob Barr and use these strategies. Perhaps they should use them against him. They must get aggressive to earn their share of coverage in 2008.