Interview with Shane Cory
Deputy Campaign Manager of the Barr 2008 Presidential Committee
Conducted via e-mail in early May
2009. Minor edits made for typos, spelling and clarity and
ACTION: What was the strategy of the campaign?
SHANE CORY: The strategy of
the campaign initially was to run a credible campaign for the
Libertarian Party while making a valid attempt to secure a place in the
national debates. That initial strategy was also arguably the
biggest flaw of the campaign in my opinion.
The national debates, as any other camp will attest, are rigged.
The debate commission relies upon their polling advisor, Gallup, to
determine whether or not a candidate will meet the 15% requirement set
by the CPD. The catch is that Gallup did not include minor party
candidates this year (I'm not sure if they have done so in the past).
While Russ and I were aware of the rigged debate requirements, we were
also aware that those requirements were "for the public only" and that
it was up to the two, major party candidates to set the rules. Russ
Verney had done this before with Ross Perot. Perot, who at the
time was only polling at 6%, was included in the debates due to George
H.W. Bush's insistence that he be included.
Russ spent a great deal of his time working with the Obama Campaign's
manager and deputy to arrange a similar situation for Barr, even making
a secret trip to Chicago for a face-to-face meeting.
All was going well until Obama's numbers in Georgia began to
fade. The Obama camp wanted us to focus solely on Georgia to help
them there while doing a bit of dirty work for them on the side in
attacking McCain on petty issues, for instance the comment he
made about his wife being in that motorcycle festival.
After Obama pulled out of Georgia, they completely cut off contact with
DEMOCRACY IN ACTION: Did you focus on
certain states, target certain groups...?
SHANE CORY: Due to limited
resources, we focused on only seven states. Those seven shifted
slightly and eventually narrowed to three or four. All were swing
states where the margin of victory was within 1% to 2% in favor of
While we could have garnered more votes with different targets, the
goal of this strategy was to throw the election to Obama if it were a
I was solely responsible for the targeting and am happy that we did
things this way. While Obama is going to spend us into a
bottomless pit and move us further down the road to serfdom, McCain
would have done the same while furthering a policy of intervention
while increasing the size and power of government. Who would have
been worse? I'm not sure, but if the only difference is one would
kill more people overseas and send our troops into harm's way without
just cause, then I'll help the one who would send fewer souls to their
In the end, we arguably flipped two of our target states for Obama:
Indiana and North Carolina.
DEMOCRACY IN ACTION: Can you comment on
media coverage, and can you speak a bit to how the campaign worked to
get out its message day to day?
SHANE CORY: On a typical day,
Doug Bandow would draft one or two press releases on substantive issues
with real solutions. We would also do a press release in house
that was not as in-depth as Doug's work but relevant to the news of the
day. The releases were e-mailed to about 30,000 media contacts
around the nation from the Media Atlas (PRNewsWire) database (localized
releases were sent to the appropriate area).
Steve Sinton and Andrew Davis would then follow up with phone calls to
In the end, the daily press release production had little effect.
The media would call us when they wanted to discuss the third-party
We did little pitching to radio for Bob as his day was typically booked
with radio interviews when he did not have a television hit or an
event. There were a few exceptions to that.
We did pitch for Wayne Root for a period of time and Wayne also had his
own publicist and would disseminate his own press releases without
review from the campaign.
In the end, the coverage was very good for a third-party run but rather
pathetic compared to a major-party presidential run. A few cable
news outlets were very friendly, CNN in particular, and we received
regular air time. Glenn Beck was extremely generous with his time
-- giving Bob two hours -- until Sarah Palin entered the race.
The campaign received scant coverage on network news. We did tape
a segment with NBC but it never aired. I made the mistake of
informing our supporters of the air date and time and, after word got
out, NBC pulled the segment. I suspect that an NBC producer
received a call from the McCain camp and the segment was cut.
That happened on several other occasions with other shows and even once
at a NASCAR event. "Meet the Press" refused to have Bob on as a
guest as well and never
addressed the campaign. Bob appeared on "This Week" once [July 6,
2008] and on "Fox News Sunday" twice.
Stephen Colbert's show had Bob on twice but there were no appearances
on the Daily Show.
Additionally, shows like the Tonight Show, Oprah and the View were
pitched regularly and they regularly strung us along. Due to the
FCC categorizing them as "news interview" shows, they had no obligation
to give us any air time but had on McCain and Obama regularly.
We did get close to an appearance on Letterman after his dustup with
McCain -- but in the end, I think we were just used as leverage to get
him back on the show.
DEMOCRACY IN ACTION: Can you comment on the role Wayne Root
played? Was he an asset to the effort?
SHANE CORY: Any Libertarian
Vice Presidential Candidate must understand his or her place in the
race . . . and it's small. There are few resources available for
promotion or even travel. There aren't even enough quality events
to occupy the time of the presidential candidate much less the VP.
Past VP candidates clearly understood this role. During the
campaign I ran into Art Olivier, one of Harry Browne's running
mates. He understood his place and did what he could do without
interfering with the campaign, understanding limited resources.
When I sat down with Art one evening in Vegas, I explained what we were
doing for Wayne, and Art seemed taken aback that we actually had
dedicated staff to booking radio shows for Wayne.
Unfortunately, Wayne never understood the situation and took the lack
of attention that we gave to him as a personal slight. I'll give
credit to Wayne for booking his own shows but will say that positive is
balanced by the negative of some of the interviews that he did -- the
reason magazine interview in particular.
Positives and negatives weighed, I believe Wayne had minimal impact on
the campaign. That's not due to Wayne per se, that's just the
limited role that the VP plays in a third-party run. To test
that, ask 10 folks if they know what the following people have in
common: Rosa Clemente, Matt Gonzalez, Darrell Castle and Wayne
Root. While five of the ten may be familiar with the names Ralph
Nader, Bob Barr and Cynthia McKinney, I doubt one of them could answer
the question correctly.
DEMOCRACY IN ACTION: What are some lessons learned from the
SHANE CORY: I could
write a book about the lessons learned from the campaign. Issues
of ballot access, party support, friends and allies and outside
influences had so many twists and turns that countless scenarios could
be prepared for each issue.
However, the biggest lesson that I personally learned, and I believe
Bob did as well, is that running as a third party candidate at the
national level is not the best road to influence change. While
third-party presidential runs boost party support and add members and
money to their coffers, it is only on very rare occasions that lasting
change will come from the race. With modern ballot access and
campaign finance rules and a two-party dominated media, that chance of
a breakthrough is even more unlikely. I sincerely wish I were
wrong about that, but I am not.