Fascinating to read Reason‘s list of endorsements from their staff and other libertarian luminaries. Unlike in 2008 when there were a few endorsements of Barack Obama and one or two for McCain, the only person on the list even considering voting for a major-party candidate is the great Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist A. Barton Hinkle, who might go for Romney over Gary Johnson. The rest support Johnson or aren’t voting.

Hinkle’s apparent, if reserved, willingness to grit his teeth and cast his ballot for a Republican is perhaps indicative of the high stakes of his home state, which is not only a must-win for Mitt Romney, but also features an important, deadlocked Senate race that could decide which party controls the chamber come November. Economist Deirdre McCloskey says the Allen-Kaine race is the most important one being decided this fall:

Apart from the presidency, what do you think is the most important race or ballot initiative being decided this fall? The Senate race in Virginia, because it stands for the division between reactionary populism and progressive populism. Of the two I prefer the progressive sort.

It’s an interesting point, and I’m even inclined to agree with her general sentiment. But it seems like a very imaginative reading of the candidates. Both of them are establishment operators to an extreme; George Allen mainly got the nomination because of his name recognition and Redskins money, while Tim Kaine chaired the DNC. Both have served as governor and are considered heavy hitters in their parties. And neither is anywhere close to matching the more genuine populism of retiring senator Jim Webb (see Jim Antle’s profile here). It may be a minor quibble, but the danger in viewing a race as the embodiment of clashing political abstractions is that neither candidate fits the definition very well.

I envision a progressive populist to have something of the anti-plutocracy sentiments of Elizabeth Warren, but you don’t really hear that from Kaine, just the usual mealy-mouthed “fair share” talk. And even if Allen’s law office noose, fatal use of a racial slur, and lingering affection for the Confederacy make him a reactionary, all his backslapping football talk only makes him a populist in the most superficial way.

On an unrelated note, stay tuned for TAC’s own election symposium next week.