The Fringe, Part 2
Presidential candidates you've never heard of.
Updated Friday, Oct. 19, 2007, at 6:30 PM
Dr. Mark Klein shares at least one presidential tic with the rest of the mainstream candidates—he has a tagline. "We need a grown-up in the White House," Klein proudly told me earlier today. He wants that grown-up to be him.
Klein is a retired psychiatrist from Oakland, Calif., who woke up one morning in 2005 and felt like running for president. So that he did. Armed with $20,000 of his own money—Klein doesn't do any fund raising of his own—he started a field office in West Des Moines, Iowa, and says he has a dozen volunteers who believe in his message. "Instead of in my retirement buying a fancy Mercedes, I decided to run for the White House," he told me.
Klein's main goal is to strengthen the middle class. That means stemming the flow of illegal immigrants, imposing banking regulations, and re-evaluating free-trade policies. "What passes for the free market today is basically socialism for the very rich," he said. He added that even though he lives an admittedly "prosperous" lifestyle and lives off stock dividends, he considers himself middle class, since he has a net worth less than $10 million. He's less focused on foreign policy (his campaign materials say it would play "second fiddle" to domestic policy), but says he wants to withdraw all troops and supports the Bidenback strategy of dividing Iraq into three countries.
As if running for president wasn't hard enough, Klein is convinced the GOP doesn't like him. He claims the Iowa Republicans ignored his requests to be included in the Ames Straw Poll because they're anti-Semitic (Klein is Jewish). Mary Tiffany of the Iowa GOP told me his discrimination claims were baseless. He just didn't pass muster when the State Central Committee chose whom to put on the ballot in Ames. "Mark Klein isn't even a formidable candidate," she said, adding that she was surprised I was giving him the time of day. If Klein had more press coverage and bigger events, she said, they might have listed him as a candidate. (Eleven candidates were on the ballot, including John Cox and the then-unannounced Fred Thompson.)
All of this creates a presidential Catch-22: Outsider candidates can't raise their profile at major events because they don't have enough of an infrastructure, but they can't get the infrastructure they need because they don't have the medium to spread their message.
Of course, Klein could have gotten around this by running for some office other than president. But those small-time positions didn't interest him. "I don't waste my time," he said.
Face value: Another religious Romney endorsement, this one coming from the former president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Good timing, too: Romney will be speaking at the Values Voters Summit this evening, and it's fair to say he's got some repenting to do.
Two gentlemen from the Log Cabin Republicans were passing out fliers outside the main ballroom including Mitt Romney's now-famous endorsement during his failed 1994 run for U.S. Senate. "If we are to achieve the goals we share," Romney wrote, "we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern." The group also released a sarcastically fawning anti-Romney ad a few weeks ago, praising his "pro-choice record" and "Massachusetts values."
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.
Photographs of: Mark Klein courtesy of Dr. Klein; Jack Shepard courtesy of Dr. Shepard; Rudy Giuliani in the Republican presidential debate by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images; Bill Richardson baseball card courtesy the Richardson campaign; Duncan Hunter by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images. Photographs of Sam Brownback by: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images; Darren McCollester/Getty Images; Mandel Nagan/AFP/Getty Images; Scott Olson/Getty Images; Bill Pugliano/Getty Images; and Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images.