One Mystery Candidate Yet To Emerge
Ask most people, and they would agree that cutting down on the money chase and reducing the role of special interest money in political campaigning is a good thing.
A national group that is touting itself as a means of doing just that will have a candidate on the ballot for president in North Carolina.
It is far from clear, right now, who the candidate will be and whether the effort turns into anything other than an entertaining distraction. If it does amount to something, that something may be carving off just enough votes from one of the two major party nominees to throw the election to the other.
A third-party candidate doing that kind of thing wouldn't be new. (Think Ross Perot and Ralph Nader.) There is a reason that the scenario could prove especially troubling for this group, which I will get to later.
The group is called Americans Elect. This past week, the state Board of Elections certified that the group had gained the necessary number of petition signatures from state voters - 85,379 were required - to get on the ballot in North Carolina.
That brings to 23 the number of states where the group's presidential ticket should appear on the ballot.
And how will that ticket be determined?
Well, Americans Elect touts itself as a means to "nominate a presidential ticket that answers directly to voters - not the political system."
The group plans to nominate a presidential and vice-presidential candidate through a virtual nominating and convention process that will take place via the Internet in June. Delegates can be any registered voter who goes to the group's website and registers.
Those delegates can try to draft candidates, or candidates can seek the nomination.
Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer is among the prominent politicians seeking the nomination; current Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, who hasn't sought the nomination so far, enjoys the most delegate support.
Candidates must show a certain level of delegate support and be vetted by a committee before making the official slate of candidates. Delegates then vote online in June.
It all sounds very high-tech and hip, a new model for moving us past hyper-partisanship and a super-expensive, never-ending race for the president, right?
Critics have questioned whether that's all this is.
Some suggest that the group could be a stalking horse for an as-yet undisclosed third-party candidate favored by organizers and those footing the bill.
The group's primary organizer is hedge fund manager Peter Ackerman. As for those footing the bill, no one knows. Americans Elect hasn't disclosed its donors.
And that brings us back to the scenario of a third-party candidate, running under the Americans Elect label, shaving off just enough support from one side or the other to swing an election to, say, Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.
With questions about who is really behind this group, imagine what kind of conspiracy talk might ensue among the faithful on the losing side.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association in Raleigh. Contact him at email@example.com.
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