Paul Pushes For 'Third' Presidential Choice

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who mounted an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination, is now urging voters to bypass John McCain and Barack Obama for an alternative choice.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is Day to Day. I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

I'm Madeleine Brand. In a few minutes, the real, true memoir of a real, fake forger.

CHADWICK: First, Ron Paul stirs the pot. Now, you remember the former Republican congressman from the presidential primary race. He was the Libertarian speaking out against the war. Today in Washington, Ron Paul told his supporters not to vote for the Republican candidate, Senator McCain, or the Democrat, Senator Obama. Instead, he said, go for one of the minor-party or independent candidates. NPR's Ari Shapiro joins us from the National Press Club, where Ron Paul spoke. Ari, welcome back to Day to Day. And just for...

ARI SHAPIRO: Hi, Alex.

CHADWICK: Hi. It's supposed to be, kind of, a unity event for the lesser-known candidates. Who else showed up?

SHAPIRO: It was an odd mix of folks sitting on the same stage. You had Cynthia McKinney, who is a former Democratic congresswoman, the Reverend Chuck Baldwin, who used to be very active in the Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell. You had Ralph Nader, who has been a third-party candidate a few times before. And then, of course, Ron Paul was, kind of, the emcee, the master of ceremonies, organizing this motley crew.

CHADWICK: And there they all are together. And what is the message that they're putting out?

SHAPIRO: The message is, basically, choosing any one of these third-party candidates would be better than choosing either Senator Obama or Senator McCain. They put forth a kind of statement of unity, which was positions on some major principles that they all agree on, which is kind of amazing when you think of how different their backgrounds are. For example, they believe troops should be withdrawn from Iraq. They believe privacy and civil liberties should be strengthened. The Patriot Act, Military Commissions Act, other laws should be rolled back.

They agreed on interrogation policies and anti-torture policies, habeas corpus, the right to court access, things like that. And so, after they, kind of, laid out this statement of principles that they all agreed on, then each of the candidates got up and spoke for a minute. And you know, basically, while they had differences, very, very big differences, those differences were not the focus of this morning's event. The focus was, you know, choosing any one of us is better than choosing the same old, same old Democratic and Republican candidates.

CHADWICK: Now, Ron Paul also said something else today. He talked about a phone call that he got last night from someone, and this was a phone call urging him to say something very different today.

SHAPIRO: Yes. It was a phone call from the McCain campaign, and he said this was the first time that he had heard from them. They were urging him to endorse Senator McCain this morning. The message from the campaign was, according to Ron Paul, he would do less harm than the other candidate. And Ron Paul, of course, declined to endorse Senator McCain. You know, there was a line that one of the other candidates, Craig Bald - Chuck Baldwin, rather, put forth, where he said, you know, we're not faced with the lesser of two evils in this election. He said, we're faced with the evil of two lessers (ph), the message being that, rather than, you know, what they see as waste your vote on someone who you're settling for, or who you think is not quite as bad as the other guy, why not put your vote towards somebody you really believe in, whether that person is as conservative as Chuck Baldwin, or as liberal as Cynthia McKinney?

CHADWICK: I'm going to go on to the one other candidate who wasn't there, apparently, today. That's former congressman Bob Barr, the nominee of the Libertarian Party. I want to ask what happened with him. But just before that, can you tell me, how do these people seem all together on one podium? I mean, is this a happy group, or I'm not sure who's sitting next to me in the bus station?

SHAPIRO: I mean, frankly, they seemed happy to be getting the attention that they have, frankly, been denied for most of this campaign, and been somewhat frustrated at having been denied. But it did not feel like your typical political press conference or rally that you might see in the Obama or McCain campaign. I mean, the second question from the audience was asked by somebody from I believe it was called the Scholastic Kids Group, the Scholastic Kids Press Corps, not something you might see at an Obama press conference. And an old man tottered across the podium at one point. So, it was a bit unusual.

CHADWICK: OK. Bob Barr, he's the former congressman. He's the nominee of the Libertarian Party. Invited today, didn't show up. What's going on?

SHAPIRO: Had his own press conference after the event with Ron Paul, where he said, we're not interested in third-party candidates getting votes. We are interested in Bob Barr, the presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, getting votes. He seemed to anger Ron Paul and a few of the others by making that decision, but he's going it on his own here.

CHADWICK: NPR's Ari Shapiro with us from the National Press Club today in Washington. Ari, thank you, again.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome.

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