Nobody likes to lose. But it must sting after losing to somebody who stopped playing the game a month ago. In the recent Iowa caucus, former governor and congressman Buddy Roemer (who is, in fact, running for president) garnered a statistically negligible 31 votes, less than dropout Herman Cain's 58 votes.
And he doesn't give up. Despite boasting stellar qualifications, he has never been invited to any of the GOP debates and has barely registered in previous straw polls. His most significant showing has been the 3% he gathered with the nationally insignificant New Hampshire Young Republicans straw poll. (But that's also the same straw poll that gave the unelectable Ron Paul 45% of the votes — they seem to take "Live Free or Die" very seriously up north.)
Unlike claims to the contrary, Roemer is a serious candidate. He's not just on the campaign trail for a book tour. If you thought Jon Huntsman was ignored and unloved, it's only because everyone else has quietly shoved Roemer out of the room. At least Huntsman gets invited in from the cold because the Republican powers-that-be have a modicum of respect for him.
As the former governor of Louisiana, Roemer inherited a massive deficit and worked extensively with both parties to whip the state back into financial shape. And while his platform of limited state spending eventually failed — policies that would seem to be GOP heterodoxy today — he successfully walked between party lines. He introduced tougher campaign finance laws and increased the stagnant salaries of teachers, while championing a sensible abortion program. To bring in revenue, he legalized the once-again iconic riverboat casino.
GOP skepticism over Roemer is understandable. Nobody likes a turncoat. Roemer began his career as a Democrat and was a very successful one at that, rising to become the governor of Louisiana. During his term as governor, he (allegedly) only switched to the Republicans after the personal urging of Bush White House Chief of Staff John Sununu.
He has never recovered. Louisiana Democrats could not forgive Roemer for his late-term switch while Republicans, confused with his erratic behavior, never really warmed to him, uniting behind David Duke (yes, that David Duke) in the 1991 gubernatorial elections. Four years later, it was more of the same for Roemer. Ironically, another party-jumper, Mike Foster, eventually won.
Since then, Roemer has dabbled with some success in business. His warm, personable charm and his stellar oratory could, when he was fired up, win over any room. But business always seemed like a sideshow to him, but whenever a political opportunity would spring up, Roemer's covetous eyes would go roaming.
Finding just where the Roemer campaign fails requires a level of political forensics that goes against conventional thinking. But then again, this has been that sort of electoral cycle. When former pizza moguls and real estate developers can come in highest in national polls, traditional politics goes out the window. Like Jon Huntsman, Roemer represents sensible Republican political values. Maybe, in this age, they're perceived as charmingly old-fashioned. Common sense in politics — in this age of indefinite detention and eternal war against terror — seems to be a rare and dwindling commodity.
And despite the famed (and perhaps mythical, but don't say that in front of the nation) Colbert Bump, Roemer has been virtually anonymous. As tragic figures go, Roemer strikes a particularly ill-fated one.
Yet, his candor in defeat and sheer persistence (compare his arduous months-long campaign of mediocrity to, Gary "Third Place" Johnson), casts him as the Eternal Scrapper, he'll never win but there’s something Homeric about his defiance against the political gods and men and his rare fortitude to persevere through all their barbs.
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