Gun owners who are (like me) libertarians and swing voters are in the same fix as SayUncle. Many of us have good reasons to loathe McCain; mine, as I've previously mentioned, is that I think BCRA (the McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform" act) was an atrocious assault on First Amendment liberties. Others can't stand McCain's position on immigration, or the idiotic blather he tends to spew on economics-related subjects. But for those of us who think Second Amendment rights are fundamentally important, voting for anyone who would appoint more anti-firearms judges (a certainty from Obama given his past views) is just not an option.
That translates into votes for McCain. Probably including (though I shudder and retch at the thought) my vote. It's not like there's any chance Obama's going to push for the repeal of BCRA. So I'm left with a choice between a candidate hostile to both my First and Second Amendment rights and one that supports the Second Amendment. (Normally I'd vote Libertarian, but the LP's isolationist foreign-policy stance seems so batty after 9/11 that I can't stomach that option in this cycle.)
Emphasis added. It's a terrible thing, but that's the reality.
I'm not fond of McCain. That's for a lot of the reasons Eric Raymond cites above, but for every thing I don't like about McCain Obama's position is worse.
This falls in with the simple math of 3rd parties in a "Two Party System".
Now consider three candidates (A, B, C). You rank them in order of how repellent their policies and character are, IE how much you would not want them in office.
A is the worst, B is not great but better than A, and C is the person you want into office.
Now assuming that A and B are in the two parties, what does that give us?
C will not win. It's that simple.
So the question is, which is more important? Casting a vote to give C more of a "victory", that is having him less marginalized.
Or is casting a vote to prevent A from getting into office.
Naturally, this depends on how much worse A is than B in your personal opinion. If A and B are nearly the same to you then protest voting for C makes sense. If both are really bad but one is much worse... then why have your vote help the candidate you dislike the most get in?
Remember that only A or B will be president. One of them will be in office. If you have a strong preference against A, then where should your vote go?
It's cynical but realistic. In this example, you are using your vote to block the candidate you dislike the most.
Vote for A: A's lead over B goes up by 1
Vote for B: A's lead over B goes down by 1
Vote for C: A's lead over B does not change.
Pretty easy, no? There's only one way to vote that reduces A's stance relative to B.
In our political system one wins the presidency by getting the majority of electoral votes. One gets electoral votes by winning the plurality of votes in a state (or by district in some states).
Given that a 3rd party will not get into a 2nd position, the only way to block the lead of a person in one of the two major parties is to vote for the other guy.
Yes it's distasteful and realpolitik, but that's reality.
One can also apply this math to states where say Candidate B has no chance of winning, where the polled lead and historical record of Candidate A and A's party in that state has it a sure thing.
First, be sure that it is a sure thing. This is a strange election.
In this case Candidate B falls into the same camp as Candidate C. If we assume either will win in this State.
In that case your vote is freerer. In the sense that it's "futile" to vote. Still, spite is a great way to vote.
Also since some people feel the Nationwide popular vote means something... you can vote for B to keep A's overall (and meaningless) lead down.
Again, if there is a chance to overturn A's lead, voting for B will make the #2 spot higher. Remember, that Candidate C will not move beyond 3rd place. So any hope of stopping A, once again, goes to voting for B.
It's cynical and calculating and cold, but I'd rather vote on factors like that than on hope and feelings and other qualities that make me a rube.
Politics is a con-game, and the best conmen are the ones that make themselves not look like conmen.