Barr was elected to Congress in 1994 and worked alongside Gingrich as he became Speaker of the House. Barr left office in 2003 and in 2008 ran as the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate, receiving more than 500,000 votes nationwide.
Explaining his support for Gingrich, a politician not often considered a libertarian darling, Barr told The Daily Caller, “I’m very comfortable and happy supporting Newt,” adding, “it’s not to say that other candidates like Ron Paul don’t have very good ideas.”
The former congressman has served as a surrogate for Gingrich’s campaign, primarily reaching out to groups supportive of the Second Amendment. He said he has some policy differences with Gingrich, but finds his political track record reassuring.
“Of all of the Republican candidates, he is the one best equipped and with an actual track record of accomplishing important conservative and libertarian goals,” said Barr. “A track record to me is a much better indicator of where these candidates truly stand than what they may say.”
Barr specified three particular legislative accomplishments as reasons why libertarians and others should entertain voting for Gingrich. (RELATED: Full coverage of the Gingrich campaign)
“Under Newt’s leadership we balanced the federal budget, we cut taxes significantly and we reformed welfare substantially and permanently,” he said. “Those three things stand out as irrefutable evidence that Newt is committed to and knows how to accomplish goals that are important to libertarians and conservatives because they shrink the size of government and empower the people and businesses and states.”
If Gingrich is elected, Barr said he’d like him to pay more attention to civil liberties issues, weigh a move toward a flat tax and reconsider his foreign policy. Barr noted, however, that he hasn’t spoken with Gingrich about either the PATRIOT Act or the Defense of Marriage Act, landmark pieces of legislation that Barr opposes.
“I would encourage Newt to take a harder and much more objective look … at the tremendous expansion in government surveillance power and data-mining power that was unleashed in the PATRIOT Act,” said Barr.
The former congressman, who is “very confident” that Gingrich can win Georgia’s March 6 Super Tuesday primary “by a wide margin,” also defended controversial statements made by Gingrich about moon colonization.
“It’s very important to focus not just on, ‘Newt favors a colonization of the moon,’ that’s not what he’s saying, he’s saying that the space program needs to be reinvigorated,” said Barr. “Looking down the road, space exploration and the benefits it yields — in medicine and information technology — should not be overlooked.”
If Gingrich — who hasn’t seen a primary or caucus victory since his Jan. 21 blowout in South Carolina — isn’t the GOP nominee, Barr would reassess who to support. He said that he “certainly would consider” supporting former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who is likely to be the Libertarian Party’s nominee.
“I know Gary. I like him very much. I think he was an outstanding Governor of New Mexico. I think he has some excellent ideas,” he said. But, Barr added,”I would certainly hope that he would have a more organized and higher profile campaign than I’ve seen thus far, because he has some very, very good ideas and is a man of integrity.”
The Ron Paul campaign hasn’t responded to a request for comment about Gingrich’s libertarian appeal, but has in the past ridiculed the former House speaker as a “serial hypocrite.”
Editor’s note: Bob Barr is an opinion contributor to The Daily Caller. His essays can be found here.