“This is great,” said one of the Durham County Libertarians when a waitress had to move their regular meeting at a local bar to a back room in order to accommodate a larger-than-usual crowd on Tuesday night. “There are so many people here.” By my count, 13 people were gathered. That included Haugh, his campaign manager, two members of the foreign press (one from Austria and one from Poland), and me. A more heavily-publicized event the night before didn’t do much better: Haugh told me “24 or 25” people ponied up $30 each to spend the evening drinking beer and talking politics with him.
But judging Haugh’s support based on turnout at public events might misunderstand and underestimate the Sean Haugh phenomenon. Haugh has become well known for his virtual campaign, which consists of a series of YouTube videos in which he drinks craft beer and discusses libertarian politics. The typical video gets just 1,000 to 2,000 views, but the shtick has helped him get a lot more attention in the mainstream media, including a profile in the Washington Post and appearances on national cable news networks.
Media attention probably doesn’t explain the Libertarian’s above-average support in the polls either: Haugh was getting 10 percent to 11 percent in the polls before the media began paying attention to him and only a few hundred people had seen his videos. What really seems to be driving support for Haugh is disapproval of national Democrats, like Kay Hagan and Barack Obama, as well as the GOP-controlled North Carolina legislature, where Thom Tillis is the speaker of the House of Representatives.