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Bob Barr, the Master of a Curious Universe

Well, surely Barr's campaign manager is concerned about inoculating his candidate against charges that he's a flip-flopper?

"I would like somebody to accuse us of being flip-floppers," says Russ Verney, who worked on both of Ross Perot's runs. He chuckles ruefully. "At least we're being accused of something."

A Spoiler?

Actually, Barr does get accused of something. He gets accused of being a potential spoiler for John McCain. If he were to shave a few points off McCain -- even in just one state, such as Georgia --it could make a difference.

Barr says he's no spoiler; if McCain can't win over the nation with a compelling message, it's not Bob Barr's fault. Barr's running mate, Wayne Allyn Root, puts it somewhat differently:

"Let's say that Barack Obama is elected president of the United States and let's just say it's because of Bob Barr and Wayne Root," says Root, a sports betting prognosticator, motivational speaker, infomercial star and 100-pill-a-day vitamin enthusiast who has written a book called "The Zen of Gambling" and has never held elective office. In that case, Root says, "four years of Karl Marx" could "so screw up the American economy" that it would lead to an "uprising," bringing the nation back to its small-government senses. Problem solved!

Gingrich has warned that Barr could make it easier for Obama to become president. Likewise, Sean Hannity berated Barr on Fox News in April, interrupting his guest and quizzing him incredulously about his reversal on the war on drugs. And then:

"You're not gonna feel guilty the morning after election night?" he asked Barr.

No, Bob Barr would not feel guilty, but Bob Barr does seem wounded by the memory of that interview. "He was being downright unpleasant, as I recall," he says, his voice rising a little. "There's never an excuse to not be pleasant and civil."

In fact, over the course of two days of interviews, Barr is almost unfailingly polite and surprisingly self-deprecating. He jokes that he's Rodney Dangerfield -- gets no respect, wife won't even let him smoke a cigar in his own home! He is loath to rush conversations with strangers who approach -- even when they've stopped him at the airport en route to the security line with only 15 minutes before his flight takes off.

He is especially liked by children and older ladies, says wife Jeri. She says it's because he doesn't talk down to them.

"Older women just love him -- they come up and pinch his little cheeks," she says. "Most people would think Bob is rude, and he's not. . . . He's a bulldog, but he's a gentlemanly bulldog."

Office Report

The campaign office is an optimistic place. It's big, with a whole extra room to move into once the campaign adds more people. The place only recently got phone lines and data lines and air conditioning, and still, every once in a while, Verney says, "some phone in here rings and we have no idea where it is."

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