First of all, I can’t win regarding Goode no matter what I do. When I criticize Goode I get criticized for being too critical and not being fully on board. When I say positive things about him or promotes his candidacy, others blast me for supporting someone who supported the Iraq War, etc., etc., etc. For the record, I intend to write in Goode. He is not on the ballot in my state, but he is a certified write-in candidate. I recognize that he is less than perfect, but in casting my vote for the Constitution Party candidate, I am endorsing the idea of the Constitution Party, a Constitutionalist party that is to the right of the GOP, as much as I am the candidate.
Also, Goode almost deserves a vote just based on his awesome Southern accent alone. You know that Goode’s accent in the White House would horrify all the right people. Imagining it makes me giddy.
Now for the debate, regarding who the candidates should pitch to, I thought all four candidates basically pitched to a general audience and against both Romney and Obama. They weren’t pitching against each other although Virgil Goode emphasized a couple of distinctions, and none seemed to be pitching specifically against the major party candidate most closely aligned to them.
This was a mistake, IMO. Goode should have pitched to conservatives and against Romney as I suggested below. Jill Stein should have pitched to liberals and against Obama. Etc. Do the candidates really think there is some general mass of undecideds who are open to third parties who could be persuaded to vote for Stein or Goode? I don’t think that’s the playing field. I think Stein’s audience is liberals who think Obama has betrayed them. I think Goode’s audience is conservatives who think Romney is insufficiently so. That is who they should pitch to. (I recognize that this dynamic is somewhat different for the Libertarian.)
That said, I was very impressed with Rocky Anderson. I have no idea what separates the Justice Party from the Green Party and Stein and Anderson didn’t seem to differ on anything, but Anderson was much more smooth and polished. Perhaps in 2016 Anderson could attempt a fusion campaign and run for both nominations. Johnson did fine, although on one of his drug answers he ran long and didn’t make his point. He needs to work a bit on sound bites. Also, it is absurd to suggest, as Johnson did, that gay rights are Constitutionally guaranteed. So the Founders were intending to protect gay marriage? The notion is laughable on its face. This marks Johnson as an unserious Constitutionalist. He is imposing his beliefs onto the Constitution. He is not taking the Constitution as a serious historical document. And moving on, Stein seemed flustered and amateurish.
Goode was a very mixed bag. He was right to pound home the immigration issue. And he is definitely playing the populist (getting rid of PACs, term limits, etc.) rather than the strict Constitutionalist. I’m OK with him playing the populist because that is an issue cluster that isn’t represented well by either major party and there are votes to be had there, but to do so while maintaining a Constitutionalist pretense takes nuance. I think he bungled the Constitutional Amendment question. Term limits? Really? If you could guaranteed pass one amendment it would be term limits? How about overturning the 16th? Or how about a pro-life amendment? And I think his drug answer was very problematic. I know it’s trendy to be for drug legalization, and it is popular among the third party crowd, but there are a lot of conservatives out there for whom it is still a radical idea and a non-starter. Therefore, Goode is wise to not just casually endorse drug legalization, but he should frame it as a state issue, which it is. He needs to acknowledge, however, that federal drug laws are unconstitutional on enumerated powers grounds. This way you don’t frighten little old ladies who imagine meth addicts buying their meth at the local Seven Eleven, but also keep your Constitutionalist core happy. This is essentially how Ron Paul played the issue, even though philosophically he opposes all drug laws on libertarian grounds, and it was only a marginal problem for him in the GOP primary. Goode’s answer was all over the map. He treated it mostly as an spending issue (ending the “war on drugs” wouldn’t really save that much), gave a nod to it being a state issue, then reaffirmed his support of drug laws (presumably federal).
After watching the debate, I think I may have been over thinking Goode in my post below. I’m not sure he is making some calculated effort to split the difference. I think Goode just really doesn’t understands his new audience, which makes sense since this hasn’t been his milieu until recently. His audience has been mainstream conservatives and Republicans, and I think he thinks he is still speaking to that same audience. Did Goode prep for the debate or did he shoot from the hip? Is he open to instruction? Some Constitution Party long termer needs to coach Goode up on CP and “far” right dynamics to help him avoid land mines like the drug issue.