An assessment of how the Barr for President campaign is doing at the halfway point between Barr's nomination and Election Day by David F. Nolan
Thursday, August 14, 2008
August 14 marked the halfway point in Bob Barr's campaign for the Presidency as the nominee of the Libertarian Party -- so this is a good time to take stock of that campaign's progress to date, and to weigh its successes and failings. In doing so, I shall examine four aspects of the campaign: Media, Message, Money and Management.
Before I do so, however, I should clarify my own feelings about the campaign. Barr was not my first choice for the LP nomination, but I support his candidacy. I am working actively with my local Barr meet-up group, and hope he sets a new record in total votes for a Libertarian Presidential candidate.
That said, how well is the Barr campaign actually doing?
In terms of coverage by the news media, the Barr campaign has been fairly successful. It's hard to say for sure, but I'd bet that Barr has received more "serious" coverage by the media than any previous LP candidate, at least as of mid-August. Whether that coverage will grow or fade as we approach Election Day is hard to predict. The major media tend to focus increasingly on the two big-party candidates as Election Day approaches, relegating alternative candidates to the occasional "human interest" story, often in the form of a roundup story covering "the other 17 candidates for President".
In terms of the message he's delivering to the American public, Barr's record is a lot spottier. Overall, he's doing better than many Libertarians feared, but not as well as they were hoping. By and large, he's giving straight answers to the inevitable probing questions -- "But didn't you SUPPORT that expansion of government power, Congressman? -- but he rarely takes a hard-line, pure Libertarian position. Too often he explains his positions in pragmatic terms: programs should be cut back -- rarely eliminated entirely -- because they are not cost-effective, or could better be handled at the state level. Rarely do you hear Barr say he favors flat-out elimination of some program because it's wrong, it violates inalienable individual rights, and/or it's none of the Federal government's damn business!
A glaring example was the campaign's release saying that the US should "spend less and rely less" on the United Nations. The Libertarian position on the UN has always been simple and straightforward: we should get out altogether. Taking a milquetoast position on this issue (among others) has made many Libertarian stalwarts less than enthusiastic about campaigning for Barr.
Which brings us to the issue of money. According to the campaign's website, the Barr campaign raised almost exactly $500,000 in the two months ended July 31, bringing the total raised since Barr's tentative announcement of his candidacy to just under $700,000. At the rate of $250,000/month, you could expect them to raise another $750,000 by Election Day, bringing the total amount raised up to roughly $1.5 million.
Unfortunately, the pace has slackened, rather than accelerated. The "money counter" on the campaign website shows barely $50,000 raised in the first 14 days of August. That's just over $3,500/day -- less than the amount Ron Paul money bombs generated EACH MINUTE during their most successful days. At the present rate, the Barr campaign will raise less than an additional $300,000 by Election Day, for a grand total of a little over $1.0 million.
Obviously, fundraising could pick up between now and November or it could fall off further. But a final total of $1.0 million to $1.5 million seems likely: very close to the amount raised post-nomination by Michael Badnarik in 2004 and Harry Browne in 2000.
Given the advance hype about Barr's prospects, I find this shockingly low. And I have to ask why the fundraising has been so anemic.
One reason is that, as far as I know, they've been relying entirely on the Internet to raise money. I have received at least five fundraising letters from the McCain campaign, at least three from Obama and none -- zip, zero, nada -- from the Barr group. I find this bizarre.
Another reason for anemic fundraising results has to be Barr's less-than-bold stands on the issues. Libertarians give money to their Presidential candidates not because they expect those candidates to win, but to get the Libertarian message out to the voters in its purest and boldest form. Bob Barr was the first choice of only 25% of the delegates to the Denver convention, and it appears that a lot of Libertarians are still waiting for Barr to say or do something bold before opening their wallets. E-mail appeals for funds to air-condition the campaign HQ, or to get on the ballot in West Virginia, simply do not excite people.
Which brings us to the final measure of the Barr campaign: its management. And from the reports I've been getting from the grassroots, most Libertarians are monumentally unimpressed with the team running the campaign. There seems to be little or no strategic vision, response to requests from the grassroots is sluggish, and the campaign has made some bad choices in key personnel. Longtime, well-known Libertarians are conspicuous by their absence. Aside from a snazzy-looking website, the Barr campaign effort seems adrift.
Bob Barr may well set a new record for vote totals in November. But unless he strengthens his message and energizes the party faithful, it will be more because Americans are fed up with the Repos and Demos than because the Barr team has done much of anything right.
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Posted By: George Phillies
Date: 2008-08-14 21:02:43
If I had spent $50,000 as of the end of June on a web site, that being Barr payments to Terra Eclipse, it will probably look reasonably decent.
FEC filings for the end of May and end of June show $197 154 and nearly $385,000 of total receipts to date, for $190,000 of income for June of which roughly $170,000 is covered on the clock counter...as you said, the campaign has almost no direct mail. The increment on the clock counter for July is about $200,000 (baseline resets make this hard to track to the penny) meaning about $230,000 or so in July, with a $50,000 jump right after the end of the month and at least $50,000 since, so August may also be $200,000 in total receipts.
Those donations are huge relative to the LNC take for August, which on the internet for the first 14 days is about $19,000 according to their web display. They are not quite the 5 or 40 million campaign that some people seem to think that they heard about.
I didn't expect much from the Barr campaign and it seems that I wasn't disappointed. Dr. Mary Ruward was my choice and it seems that she would have done almost as well except for the publicity and even that's questionable. Maybe in 2012 we can have a true libertarian running as our presidential candidate.
Bob Barr is in the political equivalent of a "bisexual" stage. That is the period after a man comes out of the closet when he can't quite admit to being gay and instead tells everyone he is "bisexual," and continues to hang around exclusively with straight people and to only drink beer held by the neck of the bottle.
Apparently Bob Barr thinks he is bi-political, a libertarian-conservative hybrid, which is something akin to a pushmi-pullyu that can't exist and only sounds silly to those being told about it.
When Bob Barr fully commits to being libertarian, he might be useful to the libertarian movement. He could potentially even surpass Ron Paul in influence, since America loves to be preached to by the converted.
Until that happens though, he is a pushmi-pullyu, a silly critter, an absurd idea that few will want to invest in.
Aren't you annoyed to support someone whose message strays so much from the Libertarian core? Bob Barr just cannot break off with the state. Breaking off with the state should be a distinctive feature of libertarianism. Your example on the United Nations is a great one. How do you feel explaining your personal conviction that the US must withdraw from the UN (I am assuming this is your opinion) when your candidate for President is ambiguous on the topic?
Based on all four of those measures you use, we can sum it up into two measures - how well he's doing at getting support from outside the party and how well he's doing at getting support from inside the party. I do not have the answer to the former, but from what I've seen the answer to the latter is "spotty" as well. How much has his support within the LP increased since the convention?
Thank you for the article, Mr. Nolan. Well, if one look into a few youtube video's, one does see some "radicalness", as was also played in the beginning of the interview with George Stephanopoulos. I think at the moment he has the support of a part of the Ron Paul movement, as well as some disaffected Republicans and Democrats. He can perhaps only manage to make some substantial breakthrough - if that is hopefully going to happan - after the DNC and RNC and depending on the outcome of that. Nader is a much better known candidate than Barr, but is also struggling raising money. The whole focus is to be on the ballot, he could not campaign much.
It is very true that the Barr campaign should not rely on the internet alone and should send out more funding letters and host special events/dinners etc. Dr. Paul received the funding after the debates, Barr did not had the opportunity of any debate as yet. Some people may not have as much money also.
Perhaps a good, constructive idea is to arrange a conference call with yourself and a few other influential Libertarians with constructive ideas with Barr, whereby communication can be improved, constructive criticisms expressed and ideas can be exchanged, perhaps also with Russ Varney, who should market the campaign.
Generally Barr is perhaps more of a realist, taking a step by step approach, and not radical change (perhaps in terms of strategy Barr is looking to build a coalition, like Reagan. As a political party you should strife to win, and communicate it in this way, but in a measured way. I find Barr is generally achieving a good balance, acknowledging it is a "longshot", but also by not ruling success out. Success in his campaign is not only to be measured in winning the presidency, but also by performance, and achieving ballot access in most states, so that a future huge ballot drive would not be necessary and setting up the stage for a respectable performance, that could be the building block for possible success for congressional candidates in 2010.
I have recently listened to an interview with Charles Goyette. It is clear that Barr is sincere and does not think the GOP is "reformable", in distinction to Ron Paul, who works withint he GOP for change. Ultimately, I think it is the best strategy to both work within the GOP (and D) for change as well as outside, in the LP.
I do not share the conspiracy theory that Barr would return to the GOP as some Libertarians have expressed. He will only do so, if the GOP really changes course. Also, if he achieve a respectabe amount of votes in the election, the GOP would also never welcome him back, even if he wanted to. He was dissatisfied in the GOP while in the GOP and has acknowledged that he also voted for Badnarik in 2004, not only rooted for him, while still being a GOP member. In 2010 he could possibly win a congressional (or senate seat?) as a LP member under his current platform (e.g. civil liberties, federalism, mom-interventionist foreign policy).
I do think he should be commended on the frequent and active PR releases. He compares very well with another third party candidate like Baldwin, who only has a few PR releases.
It is pretty clear by now that the Libertarian Party is not competitive at the Presidential level. In the past, we got a certain amount of publicity just for the novelty of our views. Bob Barr is getting a certain amount of publicity because he was known for his period in Congress.
But nobody thinks that a vote for Barr is anything other than a protest. There should be a lot of protest votes available this year because the Republicans have proved to be so bad. But any real growth for the Libertarian Party has to come from running strong local campaigns.
I would hesitate to file as a Libertarian candidate during a Presidential election year, because it is so likely that the candidate for President would embarrass me. It has almost always happened, in the 36 years of my involvement with the Libertarian Party. Can't we be realistic enough to stop wasting time, money & effort running unsatisfactory candidates for President, and start running more satisfactory candidates for Congress?
should get you a Barr filing for July (covers June money) and *two* filings for June (covers up to May). If the filing is genuine, you will see pages, and page two gives you a current period and a total for almost every number.
To do this for an arbitrary candidate, go to FEC.GOV, put your cursor on \'campaign finance reports\' and then click on the second or third lines of the pushdown list. The second line lists only electronic filings, but is up to date, while the third lists all filings, but may at times be running behind.
You appear to be using an FEC search tool that lists only major donors (that\'s the 334 count; the FEC *does not get told* how many small (< $200) donors you have.) That tool appears not to work right for Presidential campaigns that start more than two years in advance. Also, you may be seeing Barr\'s original filing, not his revised filing that found more money.
Posted By: D. Frank Robinson
Date: 2008-08-15 16:14:20
I got my calibration of Bob Barr's message before he anounced for the nomination. Bob and I exchanged a few emails and he asked for my endorsement before the convention. I put on only one condition on my endorsement: that Bob make abolition of the Federal Reserve a featured issue of his campaign.
Bob relpied that he was "no friend of the Fed." That meant, "No." I inferred, correctly as it turns out, that Bob Barr was likely to campaign on firm mush.
Bob Barr may someday evolve into a solid libertarian, yet he has a lot more to understand - gray neutralitality on important issues doesn't get money out of libertarians.
Stephen B doesn't need to smear bisexuals, by pretending they don't exist — I'm one, and I meet them all the time in both genders, and dimensions of passions and sexual response don't contradict each other.
That was a digression from a quite valid point, that "libertarian - conservative" mixtures are unstable. Political principles, even if abandoned (or, in the case of Barr, I fear, never really adopted), undercut each other. The power of logic and implication will not be denied. If Barr is giving the impression that genuine liberty is only efficacious, and not a moral way to organize society, that will come out in what he says.
I am decidedly unimpressed with what he's been doing, and disappointed in the Denver delegates going for the cheap theatrics of "he's a former congressman" to gain some publicity. Unlike with Ron Paul, "there's no there there" with Barr.
I also believe that, given his having supported both the Iraq war and the "Patriot" Act while in Congress, two years is not enough of a libertarian epiphany. Not for a presidential candidate.
I am a registered Libertarian, to preserve a needed ballot line, but I'll be voting for others this Fall far more than I will be for Barr.
Posted By: D. Frank Robinson
Date: 2008-08-15 17:38:35
Greybird, you point is well taken. I agree. The "bi-" metaphor was a poor choice of words. I can think of a dozen better metaphors for Bob Barr's evident philosophy - like libertarian toddler - unknown potential and he falls on his ass a lot.
Posted By: Mark Anderson
Date: 2008-08-15 18:39:05
The upper echelon of the Libertarian Party has steered the party towards irrelevancy, believing the lie that they must sterilize their positions in order to gain votes. If you are coming from the outside, it becomes necessary to give people a COMPELLING reason to vote for you. I'm sorry, but using the same sort of platitudes and sloganeering as the two major parties won't give people that compelling reason. It will come down to things like who is more popular, who the people have the most familiarity with, and so forth. Therefore, if the LP has to take BOLD stands in order to remain relevant.
I must say that I am most disappointed in Barr's running mate, Wayne Root. Is there no other person on earth Barr could have found? How about former U.S. Senator Bob Smith? That would have been a pretty solid ticket right there. I have seen some of Wayne Root's videos, and, not only is he neocon on many issues, he tries to explain this scenario where one day, twenty years from now, he will become the president. Whether or not it is even possible is besides the point. The point is, the guy has a serious ego problem, and his rhetoric is downright childish.
I was a serious donor to Ron Paul. I was also a LP monthly donor until I read about the interactions between Barr and the LP national commitee. Currently I'm on the side-line waiting to see if Barr has any understanding of what libertarianism is. So far, it looks like it's going to be a long, long wait...
IMO, what the Barr campaign needs to do is first study the core libertarian principles and how they must be applied to achieve a free society. Then create a roadmap of how to change our society into a free society. Then boldly, heart and soul, articulate the libertarian message. Anything less will not energize his campaign.
When you all nominated the anti-libertarian to head your party, did you really expect to get donations like Ron Paul did? Sorry, lots of people are dumb, but I can smell the pandering politician stench on Barr all the way from California.
Nominate a real libertarian, and then maybe you'll be able to save the party from the same death-by-abandonment-of-the-base that the Republicans are now undergoing.
Posted By: Robert Capozzi
Date: 2008-08-16 04:56:22
We likely won't know the make-up of Barr voters after the election, as the data is scant to non-existent. The L base is still quite small, near as I can tell. The L-leaning universe is quite large.
The fundraising points Nolan makes seem true enough, although the extrapolations are questionable. Barr started this effort late, so expecting a flood of funds seems unrealistic, especially in challenging economic times.
Comparisons with the Paul campaign for the GOP nod seem dubious. Paul was in national debates, Barr hasn't been. Saying that Paul was "L enough" yet Barr is not seems off the mark, as some suggest. Both are pro-life, for example, while most Ls are pro-choice. Sometimes, though, a mature party has to agree to disagree.
Barr's style is certainly more measured than Paul's. Personally, I prefer that, although it's also the case that we'd like our standardbearer to inspire. Candidates have to be themselves, and Barr is articulate and sober, more understated than overstated. I trust he'll use those qualities to his advantage to maximize the impact of his campaign.
Greybird, there was no slight intended toward real bisexuals. It was only a metaphorical allusion to those sad individuals who cannot be honest with themselves, who cannot commit, and who thus remain ineffectual (as either straight or gay, or in Barr's case, as either conservative or libertarian). That is the reason I put the term "bisexual" in quotation marks. I didn't mean to shake anyone up, except for (hopefully, on a long shot) Barr.
I HAVE BEEN A LIBERTARIAN SINCE I HAD A PAPER ROUTE (MY RST bUSINESS)IN 1940 - Congress passed the first ten amendment in 1791 and for the next 122 years we had the greatest growth of any country in the history of the world Railroads from coast to coast even invented the airplane highways every where. NO FEDERAL INCOME TAX - NO FEDEERAL RESERVE ACT Believe it or now the State Legislater appointed the U.S.Senators Do you think JFK'S Brother Bobby Kennedy from TAXACHUSETTS WOULD BE APPOINTED BY THE NEW YORK LEGISLATURE TO THE U.S.SENATE of course not or Slipar Hilary rodham Clinton a carpet bager from Illinois wife of the ex/governor of Arkensas be appointed to the U.S.Senate by the New York Legislature of course not
It all changed in l913 - we got the federal reserve act and UN CONTROLABLE INSTANT INFLATION We got the federal Income Tax - It is insane to tax ones incentive to WORK how can you have such a thing in a free enterprise system (FES) with a willing buyor and a willing sellor and you got a deal? EVERYONE WINS what can be better then that
I ran for congrsss in the fifth dist Ohio in 2000 I ran as an Independent You just heard my campaign and my walkaround sheet had article one section eight of the U.S.Constitution (The Job Description)and I chalanged anyone to show me where it talks about free drugs Pensions Soc Sec) or EDCATION? We have a limited government on the National Level CONGRESS CANNOT PASS LAWS IN THIS AREA IT IS NOT IN THE CONSTITUTION JOB DESCRIPTION INCIDENTLY i GOT OVER 9900 VOTES SO SOMEBODY LIKE WHAT I HAD TO SAY If I was a demo or a repub I needed 50 signitures to get on the ballot as an INDEPENDENT I HAD TO GET UP TO 5,745 signatues just to get ballot access before the citizens would find my name on the ballot FES HAS WORKED BEFORE THERE WERE GOVERNMENT OUR FRAMES UNDERSTOOD IT AND WAS AFRAID OF POWER IN ANYONES HANDS SINCERELY JACK GREEN "The Miracle Man" These remarks will not be found in a GOVERNMENT (Public) SCHOOL We must take our school system
Posted By: David K. Meller
Date: 2008-08-16 09:46:29
Excellent evaluation, fair minded and factual. I hope that Barr (and Allen Root) take its points to heart, straighten up what needs to be straightened up, and start cookin'. The fate of liberty is too important for us to equivocate and temporalize with our opponents, especially with turkeys like Obama and McCain!
Thank you for that sober analysis of those four aspects of the Bob Barr campaign: Media, Message, Money and Management. FYI: Barr's candidacy was my own first choice for the nomination in Denver, and I also hope Mr. Barr sets a new record in total votes.
Media: the Barr campaign's ability to obtain free national media coverage is the best that I ever recall. This aspect strikes me as being an unqualified success.
Message: Barr is talking to Americans in terms they understand. His 6% polling numbers is evidence that he's connecting to voters who generally do not understand the theory behind LP philosophy. From my perspective, it's a good thing for a LP candidate to connect to voters who would otherwise glaze over when hearing hard-line LP rhetoric. I expect that one campaign from Barr will get more Americans moving towards the LP than many dogmatic hard-line campaigns would have done.
If you have polling data for prior LP presidential candidates, I'd sure like to compare those numbers with Barr's 6% polling data.
Money: I think everyone agrees that fundraising has been disappointing. From my perspective, it's a crying shame LP members are failing to embrace the strongest LP presidential candidate in my memory. Also, the Ron Paul Campaign for Liberty's attempt to perform a miracle ... salvaging the GOP ... is a large contributor to the starvation of the Barr campaign. My hope is that after the September love-fest in St. Paul comes & goes, the Ron Paul activists will realize they've got "no dog in the hunt" and avalanche to the only viable, liberty-oriented campaign - the Barr campaign.
Barr Campaign Management: On this item, I must 100% disagree with your assessment. Since you compare Barr's fundraising challenges to Ron Paul's fundraising success, let me compare their campaign teams. The Barr campaign management team is 1000% stronger than the Ron Paul campaign team. The strength of the Ron Paul team was the independent grassroots, and not Ron's campaign management. In fact, many old-time Ron Paul supporters were jilted by the Ron Paul presidential team. If you ask around Texas, you'll find many old-time Ron Paul supporters who have been removed from Ron's inner circle; that's not a great way to run a campaign.
More to the point: when looking for fault, many members of the LP should start by looking in the mirror. Lack of success from the Barr campaign management team is, IMHO, primarily due to the lack of money. LP members are failing to provide adequate seed money for what could have been a world-class campaign.
As a Libertarian, I did not have Bob Barr as my first choice for our candidate (Kubby myself). What I do hope for is that he does a good job for us. I am working hard to promote him and Wayne Allyn Root because it is my DUTY to do so. I am fighting for freedom. This Cycle Bob Barr is our ensign, next cycle it will be another. We have nothing to lose with Bob, and much to gain. Nay-Saying is narcissistic and crude.
Mr. Nolan, thank you for the analysis. You offer a lot of wisdom... and always have! Its useful for us Libertarians to understand the strategic and long term implications of actions.
--the Ron Paul Campaign for Liberty's attempt to perform a miracle ... salvaging the GOP ... is a large contributor to the starvation of the Barr campaign--
I disagree--Bob Barr's early lie about Ron Paul dropping out of the GOP race (before he actually had), hurt Bob Barr's credibility with any Ron Paul fans.
Plus, Bob Barr is a just a Republican in Libertarian clothing. I've voted Libertarian in the last 2 presidential elections, and was a dues paying member before that, but I will be voting Constitutionalist this time around. Yeah, there is a lot to disagree with the Constitutionalists about, but at least I know what I'm getting with them (and it would be better than with McCain or Obama). I have no idea what I'm getting with Bob Barr, hence I won't be voting for him.
I served as Ron Paul's Personal Trave Aide in his 1987/88 Libertarian Presidential Campaign. I can tell you in comparison to that effort Bob Barr is doing a far superior job in just about every category.
Curious David Nolan didn't mention ballot access in his piece. We only made 46 States in 1988, missing Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia and Oklahoma. This year, Barr is likely to make 48, including North Carolina.
Barr is doing far superior to Ron Paul in major media attention. We would have killed for even half of this attention that Barr is receiving in 1988. Ron never made the three majors CBS, NBC and ABC. He got only as high as one appearance on PBS. Barr has already been on ABC News twice.
Where Barr is failing Paul's 1988 effort is in fundraising. He's not doing a bad job, just fair, and not as well as expected.
Campaign Management? Barr's Team is far superior than the Team we had in 1988. Recall, Campaign Manager Nadia Hayes was busted at the end for embezzlement of $140,000 of campaign funds. Funds that were supposed to go to major TV ads.
The bottom line: Vote totals is what counts. This is why Ed Clark's 1980 Libertarian Campaign is regarded as the all-time best.
Zogby just released a poll that found Barr at 6% again. That's two polls consistently. UT just released a poll showing Barr at 5% statewide in Texas.
That translates to 5 to 6 million votes on election day. That's more than 5 times more than Clark. And that is how ultimately Barr's Campaign will be judged.
With regards to the media, my perspective is that Barr has gotten more coverage than any LP candidate in recent memory. I don’t remember seeing Badnarc being covered in the media at all in 2004. I didn’t even know who he was until this year. I recently watched a few YouTube videos of him speaking. In spite of his assertion of being a “constitutional scholar” he seemed to be factually incorrect about a great number of things. Harry Browne got some coverage thanks to his history in the investment arena. Marrou received next to nothing. I was involved in the Paul campaign in 88 and remember when the PBS cameras showed up for an event we held in Michigan after his speech at the Detroit economic club. Other than that plus a rather embarrassing performance on some horrible NYC talk show with Bo Gritz, I don’t recall a lot of coverage of Paul either. Barr is way out in front of other LP candidates in terms of media coverage.
In terms of message, no one but the ideologues in the LP believe that a “pure” libertarian position is what’s needed to actually make progress in moving the electorate forward. What we need right now are pragmatic discussions of WHY government has created most of the big problems we face as well as HOW we get out from under 100 years of our history. The ideologues in the LP never, ever talk about the HOW, which is precisely the problem. There’s this imaginary snapping of the figures and everything is fine. That’s not enough to convince social security and Medicare recipients, for example, that they won’t suffer greatly as a result of some libertarian purity. The HOW is most important and Bob Barr is doing a better job than any LP candidate in history in talking about this.
Insofar as fundraising is concerned – yes, Barr’s numbers have been a huge disappointment. Perhaps after Labor Day when the general election really begins, we’ll see an uptake. We’ll see.
There are a half dozen mainstream politicians who could have made a Libertarian conversion believable. Bob Barr is not one of them.
Many of us bolted to Ron Paul the moment word came out that he was considering a run. We did our GOP thing until it came down that we should make nice with neocons in the name of incremental progress.
Now we're politically homeless, because
compromised principles are not an option.
The LP needs to look inward toward character, not outward toward name recognition. I'm not privvy to the party's inner workings, but I know it would only take a nod from Ron Paul to make it viable. Why not court that?
Bob Barr and his LPN supporters have made themselves irrevelant by abandoning the LP's core principles for the usual soft soap B.S. I'm still a Libertarian at heart, but a registered Republican to write in RON PAUL. If my ballot is 'uncountable' that's OK too. The guy in my shaving mirror understands that Principle comes before Popularity. When the LPN returns to its stated principles, I might change my mind.