AUSTIN, TX -- While it isn't as buzzworthy as Al Gore's surprise appearance, Libertarian candidate Bob Barr dropped into the Netroots Nation conference today. I spotted him at a panel discussion on House and Senate races a few moments ago, where he had sat down quietly, accompanied by a couple of staffers. After about half an hour, Barr got up to leave, but one of the panelists was sharp enough to work Barr's name into the discussion and he turned around and waved to the audience to a mild round of applause.
What was Barr doing here? The conventional wisdom is that he might be trying to draw out some fundraising support. This is one place where you'll find quite a few maxed out ($2,300) Obama donors, and those people could plausibly contribute to Barr if they think his candidacy would help the Democrat. Barr is also attending the competing Right Online Summit, which is also in Austin tonight, and where interestingly enough he was invited to deliver a keynote speech.
I think it's equally likely, however, that Barr is here simply to get a sense for what makes the netroots tick. Whereas the Ron Paul campaign very much played off the netroots model of highly networked, online-based fundraising and activism, Barr has had less success in getting his candidacy to go viral.
I still find it unlikely that Barr is going to wind up with more than about 1.5 percent of the vote. But if he learns a couple of things, and begins to cultivate support from the right-leaning netroots (an intrinsically libertarianish demographic), his threshold might be higher than that.