Harry Browne for President

The 1996 Libertarian Party national convention nominated author and investment adviser Harry Browne for president of the United States, and entrepreneur Jo Jorgensen for vice president.

The campaign broke records for the party, setting several milestones and heading the ticket for the party's 1996 election efforts.

Final returns showed the Browne/Jorgensen ticket received 485,798 votes (0.5% of the total). This is the second-best Libertarian showing ever, falling short only of the 1980 total. Browne came in fifth, behind Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Ross Perot and Ralph Nader.

Browne did best in Arizona, Nevada and Alaska, getting about 1% of the vote in those states.

Browne was successfully able to get support from a broader base than just current party members, with the party and the campaign raising a record total $3 million in 1996.

The Libertarian Nomination

Browne announced his candidacy for the Libertarian Party nomination in 1994, drawing on his following as a best-selling author of nine books over two decades and a well-known investment adviser.

Browne campaigned hard in 1995 for the party's nomination, visiting at least 20 state party conventions and making a number of professional appearances. Later that year, Why Government Doesn't Work was published, generating significant interest in the campaign, and becoming the first Libertarian campaign book to be distributed to the mass market.

One of the year's interesting moments was City Vote, a poll intended to focus the campaign on urban issues. Browne was one of a few third-party candidates to qualify for the ballot, and polled just under one percent.

Browne continued campaigning for the nomination in early 1996, winning New Hampshire's primary as well as other such contests.

Browne handily won the party's nomination at the national convention held July 4 to 7, 1996, in Washington, D.C. Unsuccessful candidates for the nomination included Douglass J. Ohmen, Irwin Schiff and Rick Tompkins.

The Campaign

Browne then continued a rigorous full-time campaign, appearing on hundreds of radio talk shows. As the election neared, media coverage intensified, with appearances on CNN's Larry King Live, C-SPAN, the Lehrer News Hour and other news programs.

Libertarians organized on the Internet very effectively, distributing campaign news via mailing lists and ganging together to dominate every online poll put on the Web -- a feat that helped earn Browne the nickname "President of Cyberspace." Net-savvy libertarians also organized Stop the Browne-Out, an independent effort to get Browne included in the debates. While ultimately unsuccessful, the group did manage to get many journalists, both online and print, to endorse Browne's inclusion in the debates. Online political sites, including mainstream mass-market ones, mentioned the party frequently.

The party achieved 50-state ballot status within a couple of months of its convention, becoming the first third party ever to accomplish that feat two presidential elections in a row. Only Clinton, Dole and Perot were also on all ballots.

Post Mortem

In December 1996, Browne offered to answer any questions about his campaign to several online forums. Asking a libertarian for an opinion is like asking an insurance salesman for a pitch, so he was nearly inundated with suggestions and questions, most favorable.


The jurisdiction that gave Harry Browne the highest vote percentage was Guam, at 1.54%. Notably, Browne was the only candidate on the ballot other than Clinton and Dole (no Perot, no Nader, etc.).