The under-the-radar presidential candidate is determined to keep trying to get his message out, even if he can't get on the stage for this weekend's debates in New Hampshire.
As the Republican presidential primary race in New Hampshire reaches fever pitch, Buddy Roemer has a message for that state: Big Media is posing an existential challenge to the Granite State's political significance. And he's going to keep tweeting until that message gets heard.
The one-term Louisiana governor of the late '90s and early '80s has a soft spot for New Hampshire. It's where all is politically possible, where the underdog can hope, where McCain beats Bush. "By God," drawled Roemer by phone from Manchester this week, "that sounds American to me."
But the political churn that has seen candidates make their way from the edge of the debate stage to its center, largely through performances in prime-time, major-network TV match-ups, is "a threat to New Hampshire," Roemer says. It has lessened the importance of the state's retail, meet-and-greet, kick-the-tires presidential process, and left national media entities orchestrating New Hampshire's politics. Case study #1: Buddy Roemer's complete inability to get invited to those debates -- two more of which will be held in the Granite State this weekend.
"I'm 0-for-16 when it comes to nationally-televised debates," Roemer complained. It was, he said, his 106th straight day of campaigning in New Hampshire. "And I'm at a loss to know why I can't get a fair hearing."
"The debates are running the whole show"
As Roemer sees it, a big obstacle for him getting included in the debates is his pledge to only accept maximum donations of $100 -- a challenge to the business side of politics, consultants, and cable news. "Look at the sponsors," says Roemer. "It's the same three or four mega corporations. Look, I'm Harvard undergraduate, business major. I'm Harvard Business School. Hell, I know how the game works. I reject it."
But it's not just the money, explains Roemer. It's what ripples forth from it. Roemer directs me to pull up the New York Times' two-page spread from this past weekend that laid out in chart-form the major candidate's positions. (Though, of course, not Buddy's.) The issues are familiar. Abortion. Taxes and spending. Afghanistan. Energy. Immigration. Where, asks Roemer, is trade? Jobs? Campaign reform? "Those, in my opinion, are the issues, and the New York Times doesn't even ask them. I'll tell you why. The reporters listen to the debates, and get their 'important issues' from the questions that are asked." Ergo, "the debates are running the whole show."
"It's powerful." Roemer says, his voice dropping to a whisper. "It's powerful."
Roemer is an imperfect messenger to highlight the imperfections of the primary process. He's raised little money. He lost an election to David Duke. He's not afraid of hyperbole. "You know, Jon Huntsman's trying to buy all the television he can get" in New Hampshire, he says, "and he can only spend four or five million." Huntsman, in truth, has spent far less.
Yet it's not immediately clear what makes Roemer's candidacy -- that of a former governor and four-term congressman who can talk competently and provocatively about China, economic reform, and transparency -- any more innately absurd than that of, say, a Michele Bachmann. Or a Herman Cain. Or a Rick Santorum. Is it crazy for the citizenry to blindly leave it up to CNN, or Fox News, or ABC to decide which candidates are patently absurd?