While Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain get the lion's share of media coverage in this election, they are not the only ones running for president. On Wednesday, some of the best-known independent and small-party candidates gathered at the National Press Club in Washington for what they described as a display of unity.
Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas convened the group. In the Republican presidential primaries, Paul raised millions of dollars on the Web and mobilized legions of young voters to his cause. He is now running for re-election to his seat in Congress, unopposed, as a Republican.
Paul told the crowd at the National Press Club that his old Texas colleague, former Sen. Phil Gramm, requested that Paul endorse McCain. "It was a bit of a surprise to me," Paul said. "He supports none of my positions."
Instead, Paul offered a general endorsement of outside candidates. Three such candidates joined him at the Press Club. All of them signed onto a platform that included the following principles:
- Ending the Iraq war as quickly as possible.
- Strengthening privacy and civil liberties.
- Reducing the national debt.
- Auditing the Federal Reserve.
The candidates endorsing these positions come from widely divergent backgrounds: Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney is a former Democratic congresswoman from Georgia; Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin used to be a leader in Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority; Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate and frequent presidential candidate who is running as an independent.
It was not a wholly typical press conference. At one point, an elderly man in a Ron Paul hat and T-shirt tottered in front of the podium and paused for cameras. The second question from the media came from a news outlet that, like these candidates, does not typically get much attention: The Scholastic Kids Press Corps.
There was one empty chair next to the other candidates, set aside for former Republican Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia. Barr is the Libertarian Party's candidate, and he decided to hold his own conference immediately after the unity event.
Barr told the audience at his press conference, "I'm not interested in third parties getting the most possible votes. I'm interested in Bob Barr as the nominee for the Libertarian Party getting the most possible votes."