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Fringe candidates party on beyond the mainstream
In 2008, Mr. Obama’s campaign spent just more than $760 million, about $11 per vote; John McCain’s campaign spent about $358 million, roughly $6 per vote. By contrast, Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin spent just $234,000, about $1.17 per vote — and alas, presidential politics is not “Moneyball.”
And the Prohibition Party’s total 2012 budget? About $7,000. Which according to online blue book values, won’t even get you a used 2010 Toyota Camry.
“I’m sure we’ll spend some tens of thousands of dollars this year,” said Mr. Akin, the Peace and Freedom Party chair. “But in political terms, we have no money. We have the backing of absolutely no millionaires, let alone billionaires. That makes it very difficult for us
“We do have volunteer labor. And we have the advantage of putting things on the web for free, just like everybody else. We may spend eight bucks for a domain name.”
Mainstream exposure is similarly hard to come by. During the 2006 Alabama gubernatorial race, glib and quick-witted Libertarian candidate Loretta Nall wasn’t allowed to participate in debates; during the current GOP primary, on the other hand, cement-tongued Texas governor Rick Perry was. Repeatedly.
“It was unfair to not include me, and it’s hard to overcome not being on the stage with the other contenders,” Ms. Nall said. “During debates, I would live blog answers to the questions. It’s hard to be taken seriously when you can’t get your message out.”
To escape the media invisibility cloak that typically envelopes minor party candidates, Ms. Nall relied on two unique assets: humor and cleavage. After a local newspaper printed and subsequently apologized for a photo that showed the buxom Ms. Nall in much of her glory, the candidate was offended — that is, until she decided to use the incident to her advantage.
Ms. Nall wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper, thanking him for “introducing the twins to the people of Alabama.” The founder and former head of the U.S. Marijuana Party, she also began selling T-shirts and marijuana stash boxes featuring a photo of her in a dress with a plunging neckline, as well as pictures of her Republican and Democratic opponents.
Below Ms. Nall’s image, a caption read, “more of these boobs”; below an image of her opponents, a second caption read, “and less of these boobs.” The clever pitch became a national news story, with Ms. Nall appearing on Fox News and MSNBC to discuss her cleavage — as well as her platform of legalizing marijuana, opposing the Patriot Act, extending tax credits for private and home schooling and withdrawing the Alabama National Guard from Iraq.
“They wanted to focus on anatomy, all right, we’ll focus on boobs,” Ms. Nall said. “But not mine. I had fun with it, but it was a serious campaign for me. And I got more national attention than all of my opponents combined.
“If you make people laugh, they’ll remember you. And if they remember you, they might pay attention to what you’re saying.”
In the subsequent election, however, Ms. Nall received just 235write-in votes — far short of the 718,327 votes amassed by Republican winner Bob Riley.
“I love a challenge,” Ms. Nall said. “Nothing worth having is easy to get. But the deck is totally stacked against you.”
For politicians outside America’s major parties, it has always been thus. In 1789, Thomas Jefferson echoed the sentiments of fellow founders James Madison and George Washington, calling political parties an “avenue to tyranny.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Patrick Hruby is an award-winning journalist who holds degrees from Georgetown and Northwestern. He also contributes to ESPN.com and The Atlantic Online, and his work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. Follow him on Twitter (@patrick_hruby) and contact him at PatrickHruby.net.
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