Surprise Visit by Bob Barr at Netroots Conference

Susan Davis reports from Austin, Texas on Netroots Nation.

Many attendees here were surprised by Al Gore’s unscheduled appearance this morning at the Netroots Nation blogger conference, but absolutely no one expected Bob Barr.

The former Georgia congressman turned Libertarian presidential candidate is in town for a fund-raiser for his third party presidential bid and decided to drop by the liberal blogger conference when his campaign manager informed him that more than 2,000 netroots activists were gathering in downtown Austin.

“There are a lot of libertarians here, a lot of supporters,” Barr said, when asked by Washington Wire about his visit. Conference organizers provided Barr and his son, who doubles as his campaign spokesman, Derek Barr, one day “temporary” access passes.

Barr’s name came up earlier this morning in a session with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. Pelosi noted that many political forces were aligned in their opposition to a recent overhaul of domestic spy laws. “Bob Barr—even Bob Barr—opposed it,” she said, to a handful of laughs in the crowd.

Democrats could easily find humor in the alliance; Barr earned national prominence in the 1990s as one of the lead figures in the impeachment effort against former President Bill Clinton. He has since changed many of his political stripes and has been a vocal critic of many of the Bush administration’s policies.

Barr said he is scheduled to appear next week on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing on the separation of powers.

Barr’s spokesman said the Georgian is already on the ballot in about 35 states, and they expect to be on 49 state ballots and Washington D.C.’s ballot by Election Day on Nov. 4.

Barr’s role in the presidential race is widely viewed as one of a potential spoiler, although he doesn’t see it that way. He notes that he’s registering in the single digits, along with Ralph Nader, in national polls and he pulled a notable 10% in a recent Zogby poll of New Hampshire voters.

Barack Obama’s campaign is hoping Barr’s name on the ballot will siphon votes away from rival John McCain in states like Georgia and Alaska where Barr is popular and has high name identification.

“I’m sure they’ve got their strategy and we’ve got our’s,” he said, “I’m not in this to help Sen. Obama or Sen. McCain. I’m in it to help the libertarian movement and my candidacy.”

The Kossacks were thrilled.