Laguna Beach resident and Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger is now on two early state primary ballots, having been notified he will be one of 11 Republicans placed on the ballot for the Michigan primary, to be held on Feb. 28. He had previously snagged a spot on the ballot for the New Hampshire primary, which was moved up to Jan. 10, and plans to focus all of his energy there in the coming weeks.
The first openly gay candidate to seek the Republican presidential nomination, Karger attracted some attention as the first candidate to officially enter the presidential race back in March, though he has largely dropped off the national radar since.
Still, Karger remains undaunted. His strategy centers on strong campaigning in New Hampshire and, importantly, getting a slot in a nationally televised debate. “I’m fighting like hell to get in one of the debates, and then things can change dramatically,” he said when he was reached earlier last week while spending a few “heavenly” days at home in Laguna before heading back to New Hampshire.
Karger said that getting into just one national debate could be the tipping point, spiking fundraising and endorsements. Look at Herman Cain. “I’m likeable, I have a sense of humor, and I’m an outsider,” he said, emphasizing the significance of being an outsider in a climate where people are very unhappy with the insiders.
What’s more, because of his frugal budget, he said he has the staying power to remain in the race for the long haul. Whereas other candidates with huge staffs to support may have to drop out if they don’t do well, he won’t have to.
Karger’s thrifty campaign budget matches its message: “We have to live within our means,” he said. “That’s the way I run my business, my personal life and my campaign. And that’s how I would run the government…. We can’t keep cutting taxes and increasing spending and getting further and further into debt. It’s irresponsible.”
Karger said that while fundraising efforts have not been as fruitful as he’d hoped, he hasn’t pushed that hard because he doesn’t like asking for money. His latest e-mail blast included the understated plea: “This is a historic time and we could really use your help. Please send in $10, $25 or even $100 today.”
Fortunately, he said he’s running a very different kind of campaign on a shoestring budget, and New Hampshire is a relatively inexpensive market, where there is only one local television station. Karger spends a lot of time campaigning the old-fashioned way, going door-to-door and handing out Frisbees.
A recent headline on the Boston Globe’s web site: “Karger tops GOP candidates with time spent in New Hampshire,” indicates he may be on the right track. The article’s author, Sarah Schweitzer, goes on to comment that “If retail politics alone were what it took to win the primary race in New Hampshire, the candidate to watch would be Fred Karger,” adding that according to New-Hampshire-based WMUR Political Scoop, Karger has spent 74 days in the Granite State, compared to closest contender Jon Huntsman with 49. Rick Perry comes in last with only 10 days. Karger is also the first 2012 presidential candidate to lease a house in New Hampshire.
Among other gay Republicans, such as Orange County’s Log Cabin Republicans, Karger’s candidacy has yet to pick up an endorsement. “We’re just watching what’s happening,” said Frank Ricchiatzi, of Laguna Beach, a local representative for the Log Cabin Republicans, who likely won’t decide which candidate they’ll back officially until April or May. California holds its primary in June.
In the meantime, Karger will eschew Laguna’s temperate climate for New Hampshire snowstorms in the hope of scoring high in their primary, which could be his ticket to a seat at a debate. “When that happens, anything can happen,” he said.