Two of the more interesting candidates for the Republican presidential nomination appear to be set on trajectories that will propel them outside of the GOP’s orbit within the next several weeks.
Former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer is now openly telling media that after New Hampshire, he will be focusing his energy on winning the Americans Elect nomination and securing the 50-state ballot access that comes along with it. Meanwhile, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson has been the subject of weeks of rumors that a bid for the Libertarian Party’s nomination is in his future.
On paper, both men should have been regarded as serious, or at least semi-serious, candidates for the GOP nod. Former governors with 12 years of executive experience between them. Both were very successful in the private sector at companies they really helped build themselves. (Newsflash: Herman Cain wasn’t the founder of Godfather’s Pizza.) And yet both were excluded from just about every major debate. Roemer was given zero opportunities to speak, while Johnson squeaked his way into just one high profile debate.
At a recent event in New Hampshire, Roemer explained his experience trying to participate in the debate process:
“I made a chronological schedule of my debate attempts the other night,” he said. “There have been 10 national debates and they are anywhere from five days to 10 days apart so fairly steady. The first three debates I was not a candidate for president. I was in the exploratory phase. I announced at Dartmouth about 12 weeks ago. I missed the first three debates because you have to be a formal candidate. I was not, I had no problem with that. I think that’s a minimal requirement.
“The next three debates, I called the debate sponsors and that was MSNBC, FOX and CNN and I was told they had agreed to certain rules and you had to have 1 percent (rating) in national polls. They actually said five national polls and I was at zero. So I didn’t like that. I said, ‘Do you know that I’m the only person running who has been a congressman and a governor?’ I said, ‘Do you know I’m the only person running who has actually created jobs in a billion dollar bank that he started with no bailout money. Do you know that I’m the only person running who has been to China 20 times on his own ticket?’ They said you can get 1 percent, get it and call us back.
“We got it, I called them back and we were now at debate five, six and seven and they said we’ve raised the rule to 2 percent,” Roemer continued. “OK, I was frustrated and when I put the phone down I cursed. I don’t do that often, but I did it then. I said to Al Hunt at Bloomberg that I’m getting a pattern. I’m getting a pattern here that whatever I do it won’t be quite good enough. He said, ‘That’s not true, Buddy. I’d love to have you, you would make this debate but we have these national rules and we have to follow them.’ Bloomberg has signed on to them. So we went out and got 2 percent. We called for the last two debates, I was told they had one new requirement: You had to raise $500,000 in the last 90 days. So I’ve gone from no standards except announcing, to 1 percent, to 2 percent, to 2 percent with a $500,000 raised. In that time period, I had raised $330,000. My average contribution was $40.45. I was damn proud of it, no one else can match it, but it wasn’t good enough. I took no PAC money, no Super PAC money. They’ve are raising a hurdle that for a candidate like me is hard to make.”
If either of these men are successful in securing the nomination of another party or entity and appearing on the November ballot in all 50 states, the partisan critics will surely complain that they’re “stealing” votes from the GOP nominee. Well, tough. The party had a chance to invite these candidates on stage and to allow them to participate in the Republican nominating process. Instead, they played games with the requirements and muscled both of them out of the race.
Don’t blame Buddy Roemer if he costs Mitt Romney a southern state or two. Blame Reince Priebus for making it impossible for Buddy to continue his campaign as a Republican.