Former governor ‘Trumped’ on campaign trail
Having run against both Edwin Edwards and David Duke in the same election, former Gov. Buddy Roemer knows what it’s like to be outshone by a flamboyant politician’s appeal to the masses. So the sudden and spectacular emergence of Donald Trump as a celebrity Republican presidential candidate, though unexpected, could not on its own thwart Roemer’s long-shot ambition. But also to be shut out of the very first televised presidential forum, which he counted on for national exposure, has doubly challenged his quest.
“Donald Trump just takes all the air out of the room,” Roemer complained to radio talk-show host Jim Engster last week. “He’s been tough on me. He’s been an unexpected development in my plan to get known the right way.”
The right way, according to Roemer, is to crisscross the highways and back roads of early primary states New Hampshire and South Carolina, evangelizing to voters and reporters about his Big Idea, though not a new one, about the corruption of money in politics, which stains every presidential contender but he, because he will accept no contribution over $100.
His message and populist eloquence earned Roemer some buzz at early speeches and grudging respect from profiles in the national press. At this anything-can-happen stage of the race, Roemer’s strategy seemed as plausible as for any second-tier candidate aspiring to catch on. While the rest of GOP candidates run against the president, Roemer would run against all of them.
He could run cheap, driving his RV from one town-square caf‚ to country radio station in the Granite and Palmetto states. He just needed to get on the same stage, before the same camera with better-known rivals and go after them for being “all PAC’d up.” His thinking was, after six months of that and given the lackluster competition: who knows?
Who knew, instead, that Donald Trump would cannonball into the placid pool and swamp Roemer’s hopeful plans.
“I go to a small town in South Carolina or New Hampshire or even Iowa and Trump just dominates everything, he’s so flamboyant,” Roemer shared with listeners. “He makes his living on publicity. He doesn’t have to be right, it’s just flamboyant publicity. It’s frustrating.”
While Roemer has positioned himself as the thinking man’s maverick, Trump does not so limit himself, having embraced birther doubts about the president’s native-born status. When the president settled the argument by releasing his birth certificate, Trump took credit, offering it as proof that he can get things done.
Frustrating as it was to be eclipsed by the gifted and shameless self-promoter, nevertheless, Roemer figured that if he got Trump on stage he could take him.
Fox News’ first-of-the-campaign forum, aired last week, would be the early equalizer, in which Roemer could introduce himself to a national conservative audience, separate himself from his money-chasing opponents and get those $100 checks rolling in.
With so much at stake, Fox’s exclusion of Roemer must have stung as badly as any rejection by voters. The only potential candidate to serve both as a governor and a congressman did not rise to Fox’s threshold of at least a one percent showing in national polls.
Roemer wasn’t the only one stiffed. Fox invitations were rebuffed by Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and The Donald himself. The only so-called serious candidates to appear, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum, were themselves shown up by former pizza-chain executive Herman Cain, whose snappy one-line solutions wowed the Fox focus group.
The excluded Roemer was left to virtual participation before his own camera, fielding the questions and posting his responses on his web site, buddyroemer.com. Not exactly prime time.
It’s understandable, perhaps, that the network would choose not to showcase Roemer’s crusade against money in politics, since the media gets so much of it, and Fox pumps a lot back in by employing out-of-office Republicans like Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin.
Though he must wait for Trump’s parade to pass, this is not the end of the road for Roemer. His message needs to be delivered and so he will roll on. Yet while he figured his journey would be a long and winding one, he was hoping by now it would not to be as lonely.
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