In 1992, Paul endorsed Republican Pat Buchanan for president, while the Libertarian Party ran Andre Marrou, who'd served one term in the Alaska House of Representatives, and won just .28 percent of the popular vote.
Harry Browne headed up the Libertarian Party ticket in 1996 and 2000. An advertising executive turned entrepreneur and politician, he authored the 1970 book How You Can Profit From The Coming Devaluation. "Who will bail out the United States of America when it collapses, as it
must, because of the deficit spending that keeps increasing?" the promotional copy asked. "The
Collapse MUST come. It is inevitable. Our fondest hope has to be that it
does not come during our lifetimes, so that only our children and
grandchildren will suffer because of it."
Browne died in 2006. Well played, sir.
In 2004, Michael J. Badnarik, a software engineer and politician, won a close race for the Libertarian Party nomination only to earn even fewer votes in the general election than Ralph Nader, who had declined in popularity after the 2000 election debacle.
In 2008, the Libertarian Party nominated former congressman Bob Barr despite certain heresies: a former drug warrior, he voted for the USA Patriot Act, backed the invasion of Iraq, and authored the Defense of Marriage Act. In a December 2003 profile, Jesse Walker traced the beginning of his conversion. "In his eight years in Congress, Barr was one of Washington's loudest critics of the
federal government's abuses of power, taking the lead in
investigating the raid on Waco and in opposing Bill Clinton's
efforts to undermine due process in terrorism cases," he wrote in Reason magazine. "Since leaving
Congress, Barr has taken an advisory post with the American Civil
Liberties Union (ACLU) and started writing a column for Atlanta's
alternative weekly Creative Loafing -- neither ordinarily
a haven for Republicans. While many on the right have fallen behind
the Bush administration even as it betrays their purported
principles, Barr represents another set of conservatives' growing
discomfort with the administration's erosion of individual
liberty." Barr won .4 percent of the vote in his presidential run.
And that brings us back to Gary Johnson.
A former governor of New Mexico, he was re-elected by that state's voters, left office popular after two terms, and therefore has the most executive experience of any Libertarian Party presidential nominee. He can also cite the state he ran as evidence that nothing radical happens when he's put in charge. An economic conservative and social liberal, he represents a new direction for a party that has long wrestled with its paleo-libertarian wing. And yet he too is certain to lose on Election Day, as third-party candidates in American presidential elections do. The question is whether he can match his party's 1980 high-water mark and win 1 percent or more of the vote, and whether he might win even more in the key swing state of New Mexico, where voters already know and have cast ballots for him.