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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Politics. Polls show the presidential race very tight, in some states thought to be crucial this fall. Third party candidates maybe important again, as Ralph Nader was eight years ago and Ross Perot eight years before that. Some Republicans are worried about their former congressman from Georgia. His name is Bob Barr. He is now the presidential nominee of the Libertarian party. Joining us is NPR's Senior Washington Editor, Ron Elving. Ron, how much are we going to be hearing this fall about the Libertarian party?

RON ELVING: It depends on how well Bob Barr gets into the debate. He will not get into the formal debate. The two big parties run those and they don't let anyone in from the third parties unless they get well over ten percent or into the double digits in representation in the Polls. But how well can Bob Barr get into the debate in the larger sense? Can he get his ideas heard? And will enough people listen that he actually does become part of the discussion in the 2008 campaign?

CHADWICK: Well, I mention these swing states where the race between Senators Obama and McCain remains very close. I wonder, where is it that Bob Barr really presents a threat to - I guess it would be to Senator McCain?

ELVING: Yes it would seem to be primarily to McCain and nationally he's polling a couple three percentage points, but he's doing better in red states and southern states as you might well expect. But he might make an impact on some of those states to a degree that they become swing states. In other words they might not be the classic swing states, but you might see North Carolina come into some degree of play. You might see even Georgia, which is Bob Barr's home state, where he served eight years in Congress. You might see that state come within range that John McCain might actually have to campaign there.

CHADWICK: How about Ralph Nader. He's also running this year and he has caused the Democrats fits in years past.

ELVING: Yes. He is actually running a little better in red states as well, which is something you have to ponder. You have to ask yourself why is Ralph Nader who is thought as the most liberal of the candidates who have done well as third party candidates in recent years, why is he running a little better in red states? Blue states overall joining about three percent mid western three percent. Michigan would be typical at three percent. But in red states he's running a little bit better. Obviously, you expect Ralph Nader to be more of a problem for Democrats. But in recent polling, and we've seen this in a couple of polls now, when you put him in he hurts McCain as much, or more, than Barack Obama. And I don't exactly why, but those are the numbers.

CHADWICK: You know, Ron, neither Senator McCain nor Senator Obama seems to be able to poll over that magic 50 percent number that any candidate would want. Given that, doesn't the third party question loom ever larger?

ELVING: Yes. It's in the tight races that third party candidates really matter. And in 2000 we say Ralph Nader at less than three percent nationally, less than three percent. And yet, he got 22,000 votes in New Hampshire and that was three times more than the margin of victory for George Bush in New Hampshire. He got almost a 100,000 votes in Florida. And as we all know that race was decided by 537 votes. So if this race this year is just as tight, a Bob Barr, or the combination of Bob Barr and Ralph Nader could be decisive.

CHADWICK: NPR's Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving with us this week from the political wilds of Louisiana in New Orleans. Ron thanks.

ELVING: Thank you Alex.

CHADWICK: And coming up, two takes on the problems of petroleum. People are driving less thanks to gas prices. That's Marketplace. And how does this effect surfing? More as Day to Day continues.

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