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 conciseness.

DEMOCRACY IN 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 our campaign.

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 McCain.

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 close race.

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 graves.

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 targeted outlets.

In the end, the daily press release production had little effect.  The media would call us when they wanted to discuss the third-party race.

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 campaign?

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.

Copyright © 2009  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action