When rebel Republican Ron Paul formally removed himself Thursday from the party’s presidential nomination race, both Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr and independent candidate Ralph Nader quickly stepped up their respective campaigns to court Paul’s abandoned supporters.
An effort is underway by both camps to appeal and gain the majority of Paul’s voters and pledged delegates to the GOP convention in September. Paul amassed 1.16 million votes during the Republican primaries and caucuses and won 35 delegates who now can back other candidates.
"Congressman Ron Paul has fought tirelessly in both the Libertarian Party and the Republican Party to minimize government power and maximize individual liberty," Barr says in a statement released Saturday aimed at Paul’s supporters.
"I want to thank him for all he has done for liberty in this nation and encourage him to continue his fight through whatever avenues he sees fit."
Barr, a former Georgia member of the U.S. House of Representatives, is appealing to Paul’s backers who are libertarian-minded on economic and social issues. Barr, like Paul, believes in cutting government spending and getting a handle on entitlement spending.
The Libertarian Party plans to get Barr on the ballot in 48 states in November’s general election, and Paul's supporters could provide the kind of boost he needs to be a spoiler to GOP presidential candidate John McCain’s chances of being named the party’s nominee.
Barr is counting on Paul's supporters for money and the number of votes he needs in order to qualify for participation in the upcoming presidential debates. Paul, a 10-term Texas House member who once ran as a Libertarian presidential nominee in 1988, raised nearly $35 million in donations from hundreds of thousands of supporters this election season, mostly via the Internet.
Similarly, Ralph Nader, the wealthy political activist and perennial candidate for president in five elections, is also courting Paul voters and delegates for his bid to win the White House in November.
“Ron Paul was a lightning rod for millions of Americans against the war in Iraq and for the protection of personal liberties the two major parties have turned their back on,” reads a statement released over the weekend by Nader’s campaign team.
“Now that Dr Paul has formally withdrawn his candidacy for the GOP nomination and is no longer seeking the Presidency, there is a clear choice for those who want to support a candidate who will stand up against the war and stand up for personal liberties and privacy that have been trampled by the notorious, misnamed, ‘Patriot Act,’” the statement reads.
Nader, although commonly associated with the political left, has wooed conservative voters in the past, most recently in his 2004 independent candidacy in which he attracted a record number of disaffected conservative and libertarian voters in the general election.
Nader says Paul’s supporters should rally around his campaign because he, like Paul, opposes the war in Iraq and the ‘Patriot Act,’ and is a fierce supporter of civil liberties.
Ike Hall, an insider from the folded Paul campaign who coordinated his Georgia primary, says Paul’s supporters might even vote for Constitution Party nominee Chuck Baldwin. Or even for Democratic or Republican presumptive nominees Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., or Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
"Ron Paul doesn't encourage or discourage anyone voting for any other candidate,” he says.
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