Red Phillips: What to Watch for When Virgil Goode Debates Tonight

Red Phillips at Conservative Heritage Times:

Here is what I will be watching for when Virgil Goode debates tonight. Does he style himself as a mainstreamish candidate who was disgruntled with his ex-party and happened to capture the nomination of a third party, or does he style himself as the spokesman of his new party carrying the Constitutionalist banner even when doing so will force him to take unpopular positions? To some degree (but not entirely) this is a question of whether to Virgil Goode this campaign is about Virgil Goode or the Constitution Party. Was the Constitution Party a convenient and available vehicle for Goode, or is he really a convert to a Constitution Party way of thinking.

My hunch is the former. This is based on several things. His initial website blared his intention to save Social Security. He mentions the Fair Tax on his issues page. He has so far failed to fully embrace non-interventionism. Etc. A lot of Tea Party style Republicans would be comfortable with his issues page and candidate comparison page. There is no “radical” Constitutionalism in it. His opposition to NAFTA, his mention of the North American Union, his opposition to US soldiers under UN command, his opposition to birthright citizenship, etc. clearly signal to a lot of Constitution Party types, but these issues tend to distinguish him in kind as much as they do by degree. He is running as a more populist/paleo/Buchananite candidate, but is he running a hard to the right of Romney campaign?

In the back of my mind in asking this question is whether Goode is attempting to maintain his viability for a future GOP or independent run, or is he all in with the CP. (Goode is, as my Mom would say, no spring chicken so that factors in. He may not be planning a future run due to his age so this may be more of a last hurrah.)

In a related question, who is the audience of a third party debate on C-SPAN? Will there be a large contingent of undecideds who are genuinely considering a third party vote, and if so what percentage of these will be conservatives who are trying to decide between Romney and Goode and/or Johnson and liberals who are trying to decide between Obama and Stein or Anderson? Or will the audience mostly be partisans who tune in to root for their candidate? There may be some data on such things, but my hunch is the latter.

So who will Goode be pitching to? Will he be pitching to undecideds that he doesn’t want to scare off with budget slashing Constitutionalism, or will he be pitching to hard right true believers who are still skeptical of him?

This dynamic also applies to Gary Johnson, who is considered by many hard core l/Libertarians to be insufficiently plumb line, but I have the sense that l/Libertarians have come to terms with Gary Johnson more so than right-wing Constitutionalists have come to terms with Virgil Goode.

My advice to Goode, were he to solicit it, would be to run against Romney as insufficiently conservative every chance he gets. Turn every question into a reason why Romney is unacceptable on the issue. He could play to both potential audiences by doing this. He doesn’t necessarily have to embrace purist Constitutionalism, although some nod that this or that program is unconstitutional on enumerated powers grounds would be appreciated. Goode’s opponent in this debate is not the other three candidates except Johnson to some degree. His opponent is Romney. And his audience, which I suspect is more likely to be exposed to his performance in discussions about the debate than by actually watching it, is conservative but wavering Romney supporters. People he can convince that Romney is so unsound on the issues from a conservative standpoint, that they are willing to say “Aww screw it” and cast a protest vote against Romney, especially in states that are safe one way or the other.


Note from Paulie: see also C-SPAN will cover Free and Equal Presidential Debate Tomorrow”

12 thoughts on “Red Phillips: What to Watch for When Virgil Goode Debates Tonight

  1. JamesT

    Goode will the Bob Barr of the CP. In any of his interviews he doesn’t really come off as a constitutionalists. He also like you mentioned has major policy differences with his party’s platform. I think tonight he’ll just sound like a fake – constitutionalists tea partier whereas Johnson is consistently trying to be more and more Ron Paul. I bet Goode with endorse Santorum 2016 or whoever the Republicans nominate.

  2. Trent Hill

    I imagine because it’s a waste of his time. Not many pro-life, anti-gay, anti-immigration voters listening to Democracy Now.

  3. NewFederalist

    Red- Why would you lump Goode and Johnson together and Stein and Anderson together? Is there anyone more “liberal” on social issues and personal freedom issues than Johnson? I don’t see a libertarian as being conservative but apparently you do.

  4. RedPhillips

    JamesT, I hate to be a cynic, but skepticism is warranted in this area based on passed history, Barr being the most obvious recent example. Cynthia McKinney has stayed put with the Greens, but in her case I’m not sure the Dems want her back due to her toxicity, and she seems temperamentally ill suited for mainstream politics anyway. Where her last name not McKinney I doubt she ever would have won major elective office anyway. On the contrary, Barr never struck me as inherently oppositional, although he might have had an ax to grind with the GOP for gerrymandering him into a primary with another incumbent. Likewise, Goode doesn’t strike me as inherently contrarian either, although he may be sore with the GOP for being insufficiently supportive of his re-election bid. Barr’s trek back to the GOP has been embarrassingly craven. I don’t expect that from Goode.

  5. RedPhillips

    NF, there may be some undecideds who are generally anti-war, moderate to liberal on social issues, etc. who might be deciding between Johnson and Stein and Anderson. Kind of like the people Daniel Larison described in the post below. Many of these people likely don’t think of themselves as leftists which is why they remain undecided. I suspect most Stein and Anderson supporters consider themselves “more” liberal. Goode is likely not an option for them. The people who would be deciding between Goode and Johnson are people who don’t like Romney for some reason but are generally conservativeish or don’t like Romney because they are “more” conservative than he is. Many of these folks would likely be persuaded for Goode vs. Johnson based on trade, social issues, immigration, etc.

  6. NewFederalist

    I guess you are holding the fact that he was a Republican governor against him. I still don’t see him as in the same league with Goode ideologically. I don’t see him as in the same league as Stein and Anderson, either. What has always attracted me to libertarians is they confuse the hell out of most pundits. Left/Right, Up/Down, In/Out it is always the same. Libertarians SHOULD be different! Everything else has failed.

  7. Gene Berkman

    Good post, Red. You covered the relevant issues well, and the parallels with for example Bob Barr are important considerations for those of us in the long march of third party activism.

  8. RedPhillips

    After watching the debate, I think I may have been over thinking Goode, I’m not sure he is making some calculated effort to split the difference. I think Goode doesn’t really understands his new audience, which makes sense because he hasn’t lived with it. His audience has been mainstream conservatives and Republicans, and I think he thinks he is still speaking to that same audience.

    His answer on the drug question was very problematic. There are a lot of conservatives who don’t want to legalize drugs and for whom the idea is a non-starter. That is why you say drug are a state issue, which they are. But as a Constitutionalist you have to acknowledge that federal drug laws are unconstitutional on enumerated powers grounds.

  9. paulie Post author

    Goode will the Bob Barr of the CP.

    They both have a bad habit of not paying people who did work for their campaign.

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