CNN’s Lou Dobbs for President?
By: Wall Street Journal
He Says No, Sort of
By GREG HITT
As Democrats and Republicans battle for their parties’ presidential nominations, speculation grows that an independent candidate might jump into the race. While the most frequently mentioned prospect is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, another name also is getting increasing mention: Lou Dobbs, CNN’s fuming voice for the disaffected.
Conservative columnist Robert Novak floated Mr. Dobbs’s name as a possible independent candidate. So did John Fund, a columnist for this newspaper’s opinion pages. From Indiana to Arkansas to Pennsylvania, Mr. Dobbs has been trumpeted by regular Americans in letters to local newspapers as presidential timber. One writer even likened him to George Washington.
“At this point, Dobbs is the only man in the country that would have a shot at making a historic independent run, and winning,” says William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration, an influential grass-roots group that favors strict enforcement of immigration laws, a favorite subject of Mr. Dobbs’s.
Mr. Dobbs says he isn’t planning to run. “I haven’t got the personality or nature to be a politician,” he said in an interview Thursday. But he makes clear he hasn’t ruled out the idea. “I cannot say never,” he said.
“All he’d be doing is acting as a spoiler,” said former Texas congressman Martin Frost, a Democrat. “I can’t take it seriously.”
That Mr. Dobbs, a self-styled “independent populist,” would even slightly leave the door open to a candidacy is indicative of how volatile the political landscape is in 2008. Polls show Americans are strongly dissatisfied with the direction of the country, and change is the overarching theme among voters.
For all of the discontent, no outsider has stepped forward. If it happens, it likely won’t occur until after the presumed nominees emerge in mid-February.
Mr. Bloomberg, who left the Republican Party in June to become an independent, has been the center of speculation that he has presidential ambitions. Like Texas billionaire Ross Perot, who shook up politics as an independent candidate in the 1990s, Mr. Bloomberg could easily finance a campaign.
But he would need a message that appeals broadly. One possibility would be to tap into the concerns of Americans put off by business-as-usual politics. Today, Mr. Bloomberg plans to attend a forum in Oklahoma, organized by former Sens. David Boren and Sam Nunn and billed as an effort to encourage bipartisanship in the nation’s capital. Mr. Bloomberg insists he won’t be a candidate, even as he dabbles on the edges of the national debate.
Mr. Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration expects public pressure to build for a Dobbs candidacy if no major-party candidate emerges who is strong on immigration. “We will start gathering outside his office,” Mr. Gheen said. “We understand he is a reluctant candidate, but we like that about him.”
Republican political consultant Greg Mueller, who advised Steve Forbes in 2000 and Pat Buchanan in 1996, suggests “the issue stars are aligned” for Mr. Dobbs should he decide to plunge in.
From his nightly program, Mr. Dobbs gives voice to a range of concerns that reflect public angst. He opposes creating any pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants and champions tightened border security. He is critical of the military and economic threat posed by China. He bashes the Bush administration’s free-trade agenda and laments the squeeze on incomes of middle-income Americans.
“The middle class in this country, the majority in the country, has been ignored,” Mr. Dobbs said. “Our elites in Washington, D.C., both political and corporate, are hell bent on ignoring the majority.”
Mr. Dobbs himself fanned the presidential speculation in November, posting a column on CNN’s Web site that floated the idea that a surprise candidate was poised to enter the race.
Mr. Dobbs says he hopes “one or two” candidates will step forward in the next 90 days to “give us some choice in this election,” beyond the two major political parties.
Any independent candidate for president would face big hurdles. Getting on ballots around the country as an independent requires volunteers willing to collect signatures on petitions. It requires teams of lawyers ready to negotiate the myriad state election laws. And it requires money.
There is little doubt Mr. Dobbs, if he wanted to, could raise enough cash for a campaign. Ron Paul, a fringe candidate among Republicans who taps into many of the same populist strains, raised nearly $20 million in the last three months of 2007.
Write to Greg Hitt at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Content From the Wall Street Journal supplied by Elva Ramirez:
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