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There's been a lot of talk about John McCain running for president as an independent lately. The chattering heads on the Sunday shows are particularly bad about tossing out "Oh, he can run as an independent." It's not that easy - and it's not a matter of ideology, as the pundits are discussing - it's a matter of time, logistics and money.
John McCain To Run As Independent? Unlikely.
Monday, April 22, 2002 By: J.E. Simmons
The chattering heads are promoting a presidential run by John McCain - as an independent. The chattering heads don't know how hard an independent campaign can be. I do.
I worked as a volunteer in the 1980 Ed Clark campaign. Clark was the Libertarian Party candidate, but many states, including my then home state of Georgia, did not recognize the LP as a political party, so Clark was listed as an independent. I learned what a struggle independents have.
Independents must organize in each state and follow each state's ballot laws. They are all different. In some, a candidate merely pays a qualifying fee to get on the ballot. In others, the candidate must get thousands of registered voters to sign petitions.
In 1980, we had to get about 70,000 valid signatures for Clark to be on Georgia's ballot. We got more than 100,000 people to sign petitions, the required number were validated, and the Secretary of State put Clark on the ballot. It took months of hard work, but we did it.
John Anderson, a liberal Republican who also ran as an independent, got more than 70,000 total signatures, but not enough were validated.
Anderson sued. At the hearing, which I attended, Anderson's lawyers introduced into evidence the signed petitions containing voter registrar's notes identifying invalid signatures. They then produced about a dozen witnesses who identified their signatures on the petitions - signatures that were listed as invalid. The witnesses then produced their valid voter registration cards and other identification to prove the validity of their signatures. The case turned on the issue of what the law required to be proven. Anderson contended he had shown the validation process flawed, and that he should be put on the ballot. The State contended Anderson should be required to prove that there were 70,000 valid signatures, and that Anderson had not done that. The judge decided it was simply too close to the election to decide that issue and ordered Anderson onto the ballot.
McCain would be required to collect thousands of signatures in many states, just as Clark and Anderson had to do in 1980. It's a daunting task - some of the signature deadlines are well before the beginning of primary season - well before people are thinking about presidential politics. And I should add that many of the people who collected signatures for Clark and Anderson were paid to do so by the campaigns.
McCain would have to raise all of his own money. He wouldn't have the help of a party, although campaign finance reform has changed the rolls of the parties in financing. He doesn't have millions of his own dollars to spend as Ross Perot did.
I just don't think an independent run by McCain is feasible.
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