Fred Karger Could Have Trouble Getting Into Presidential Debate


From the outset of his unlikely campaign for president, Fred Karger's goal has been to get onstage at a televised Republican debate.

News outlets are reporting that Karger has taken one step closer to success: The South Carolina Republican Party sent Karger an email inviting him to participate in a May 5 debate cohosted with Fox News.

p>Today, Karger announced he's gotten official word from the South Carolina Republican Party, which will co-host a presidential debate with Fox on May 5. The debate will be broadcast on Fox News cable TV. Karger's campaign received this email:

The South Carolina Republican Party and Fox News Channel have partnered to host the First-in-the-South Republican Presidential Debate, and we hope you will be part of this truly historic event...

The debate will be held from 9 PM - 10:30 PM on May 5, 2011 at the Peace Center for Performing Arts in Greenville, South Carolina. The debate will be televised live on the Fox News Channel and will be moderated by veteran Fox News anchor and award winning journalist Bret Baier.

"We look forward to your participation in the First-In-The-South Republican Party Presidential Candidates Debate."

Karen Floyd

South Carolina Republican Party

One problem for Karger: He'll still have to fulfill the requirements Fox laid out for candidates wanting to be included. In addition to a $25,000 filing fee to the South Carolina GOP, Karger will have to average one percent in at least five national 2012 primary polls.

That could be tough, since national pollsters aren't asking anyone what they think of Karger. Major polls don't include his name in the list of options.

A former GOP strategist, Karger ran the Willie Horton campaign to discredit Michael Dukakis in 1988. He had worked in Republican circles in the closet for years. Only after his retirement did he begin to tell people, outside an immediate circle of friends, that he is and has been gay.

Karger has traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire repeatedly over the past year, directing his small staff to ascertain the requirements for being included in televised debates, and to figure out how to fulfill them.

It hasn't been easy. Iowa Christian Alliance President Steve Scheffler did not invite Karger to his presidential forum in early March, after telling Karger in an email that "you and the radical homosexual community are here to harass supporters of REAL marriage" and that "you stand NO chance here in Iowa." Karger claims he was similarly iced out of February's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C. A staffer told Karger he could have a booth, then CPAC later recanted, telling him all booths were taken, even as it told at least one other applicant that booths could be reserved at the last minute.

While Karger has taken one step closer, he'll have trouble reaching a national TV audience unless he can get major pollsters to cooperate.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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