Bob Barr Is Back!

In my home state of Georgia, it seems half the Republican Members of the U.S. House delegation have entered or will soon enter the more-conservative-than-thou festival of the primary to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss. So you’d think the Delegation would be getting some badly needed new blood–who knows, maybe even someone who likes to legislate instead of posturing for the Tea Party/Christian Right galleries!

But the first big news of the succession parade is an old, familiar name: former anti-libertarian congressman and then Libertarian candidate for president, Bob Barr, is running for Phil Gingrey’s House seat in the northwest Atlanta suburbs and exurbs. Much of this is territory Barr represented from 1995-2003.

Moreover, Barr seems to have the money (or fundraising potential) and pull to put together an all-star campaign staff. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Daniel Malloy, his general consultant will be none other than John Weaver, the celebrity “strategist” last seen dispensing sage quotes to excited Beltway reporters while guiding Jon Huntsman’s presidential campaign to the bottom of the sea. He’ll be joined on Team Barr by celebrity pollster Kellyanne Conway; and celebrity media consultant Fred (“Demon Sheep”) Davis. This last gent has some history in Georgia, having crafted the viral “King Rat” ad Sonny Perdue successfully deployed against Gov. Roy Barnes in 2002.

It will be interesting to see how much time Barr has to spend explaining his somewhat erratic record to conservative primary audiences who think nothing much new of value has happened since the Constitutional Convention: the Patriot Act co-author who later joined the libertarian demonization of same; the principal DOMA author who now supports its (at least partial) appeal, just when the kind of conservatives who dominate Georgia politics are clustering around it, etc., etc. Barr may even have some ‘splainin to do to libertarians, who were startled by his endorsement of Newt Gingrich for president in 2012.

For all his national celebrity, the last time Barr ran for office in Georgia (after a Democratic legislature combined his seat with another incumbent’s), in 2002, he got trounced by House colleague John Linder, in a campaign enlivened by Barr’s accidental discharge of a antique pistol at a reception (a bit embarrassing for a then-board-member of the NRA).

Well, with people like Gingrey and Paul Broun on the hustings in the Senate primary, Barr can probably express his peculiarities abundantly without getting too much negative attention. Looks like 2014 will provide the ideal protective cover for the return of one of Georgia’s distinguished list of political eccentrics. Can Barr’s one-time House colleague and 2008 rival for the presidency (on the Green ticket), Cynthia McKinney, be far behind?

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.