Roemer, who hasn’t held a single fundraising event, said that he’s amassed nearly $1 million in contributions from 130,000 individual donors and qualified for matching funds. That’s more than Paul’s 80,000 contributors, and more than the rest of the candidates put together, he proudly adds, complimenting the Texas congressman while noting that they have some “fundamental differences” as independents, such as on foreign policy.
“It comes from disenfranchised Americans,” he said. “And I’m beginning to speak for them without changing my speech at all.”
While we’re waiting to cross a street, Roemer tells me about former President Reagan’s advice to the young congressman during his House tenure, from 1981 to 1988. Become a governor, Reagan advised, before shooting for the White House.
“Normally you’d do it with a poll, you’d survey people; I didn’t do any of that. It’s not as a result of demand,” Roemer frankly said of his candidacy. “This was personally driven: my observation as the only person in this field who’s been a congressman and a governor as to what’s wrong with the system.”
Supreme Court rulings aside, he proudly notes, he voluntarily decided to not take special-interest checks. “And I don’t have any evidence that this can work,” he said. “It’s a powerful little movement. But it’s little right now.”
Roemer beamed whenever we spoke of the 40th president, noting his immense respect for Reagan and how much the commander in chief taught him. “When he spoke to me it was always with kindness and appreciation,” he said. Other favorites who have served in the Oval Office are Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy.
Obama, he said, is a “disappointment” because of the “lack of leadership on campaign finance reform, tax reform, budget reform, immigration reform, trade reform. He’s non-existent on any of them. … The thing he hasn’t done is change Washington.”
Roemer also slams Obama for “his immaturity at leadership,” such as telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on an open mic that he would have more flexibility on the missile defense shield after the election. “He wouldn’t tell the American people that,” Roemer said. “He think we’re fools!”
“He wants to be friends with Putin,” he added. “He’s an immature leader. I’m embarrassed by it. … And it’s dangerous. I’m going to warn the American people in that first debate — be careful of who you elect. Be careful because Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama might be different after the election than they are before.”
Obama will be “less effective in his second term.” Romney would be “competent” as president, Roemer said, but “not visionary, not reformist. It would be a marginal move to the right. Not much progress.”
“Mitt Romney’s a one-percenter and Newt is his lobbyist,” he charged. He said Romney received so much primary resistance because voters “see it — that’s not them, they can’t relate. They relate more to Obama. Doesn’t mean they’re going to vote for him, but they relate.”
“They look at Romney as a politician — not a very experienced one; an awkward politician,” Roemer said. “They look at Obama as a politician. They look at them both as politicians.”
Vice President Joe Biden, who has been hitting the campaign trail with stories of his mom and pop, shows he’s “trying to be a human, trying to be a man of the street. Biden comes closer to the average guy than the other two do. And they’re using that — Biden is a skilled politician.”
Since his goal is getting to the presidential debates, Roemer got a bit of warm-up when I hit him with a lightning round of issues.
ObamaCare: “Unconstitutional. Needs to be replaced with medical reform. … I think we need to lower the cost of healthcare.”
Syria: “That’s a place for the United Nations, that’s a place for alliances, but it’s not a place for American troops.”
UN Human Rights Council: “It is a farce. … Libya was president. I haven’t given that a lot of thought, but it needs to be changed.”
Global warming: “The evidence is that the globe is warming. What is not as clear is what’s causing it. But I think we need to be safer. I think we have to reduce our carbon emissions. And I plan on a natural gas initiative that does that. … China’s gonna be the problem, but we need to take care of America and I think natural gas does that. … The evidence grows that fracking is the way to go, below 5,000 feet, do it deep, do it safe, and make us free.”
Buffett Rule: “It’s not enough that the code be fair. It’s got more loopholes in it; we need the code to be fair and progressive and we need to start with simplicity. … I would clean up the tax code. It is the biggest first step we can take to growing jobs in this country. The Buffett Rule, it won’t raise any money. What we need is tax reform and Obama won’t’ suggest that because his buddies all get tax breaks. It ought to be called the Obama rule. He paid less than his secretary.”
Fairness Doctrine: “That’s all he’s got. He’s got no reform, he’s closing no loopholes.”
DREAM Act: “I can differentiate between parents and their children when it comes to an education. If the parents are living here undocumented and illegally, I think they ought to generally be sent back home. But until they do, we ought to educate their children just like we would any other person. But I’m a little more stringent on cleaning up undocumented workers. I don’t think the current situation is healthy for anybody.”
Debt: “Federal spending is out of control and that will be one of the leadership things I’ll do after House Bill 1. … I’d like to bring spending down to 18.5 percent. I can’t do it overnight, it would hurt the country, but I’ll have a five-year plan that I will submit to Congress that will do it. … It will include entitlement reform.”
Our late food by this point highlighted a dilemma I’d never thought about through my years in Washington: Can you ever leave a paltry tip to reflect bad service when one person at the table is trying to get votes for president? When the chips and cheese finally came, Roemer gamely let me tweet a photo of his nacho-eating.
The governor talked about how he hops on the computer late at night to play fantasy baseball. “I’m a baseball guy because I’m small and the only sport I could play was baseball — second base,” he said. “I have the only dog in America named after Earl Weaver,” former manager of the Baltimore Orioles.
Roemer is also a voracious reader who is always thumbing through a book. “I’ve lost two Kindles and I can’t afford to get another one,” he said.
What he obviously hasn’t lost is the determination to keep pressing through until November, despite what the final result may be.
“This is an election. This is not an anointment. This is not a coronation,” he said. “This campaign hasn’t even started to run yet.”
“These boys better watch out, Obama and Romney,” Roemer stressed. “Because I think the country is in serious trouble. … I will go anywhere, anytime to say these truths. And I’m gonna keep it up until I’ve got no money left or no hope left.”