The Fringe, Part 2

This is the second entry in “The Fringe,” a periodic look at thelesser-known candidates for president. You can read the entire series here .

Dr. Mark Klein shares at least one presidential tic with the rest of the mainstreamcandidates—he has a tagline. “We need a grown-up in the White House,”Klein proudly told me earlier today. He wants that grown-up to be him.

Kleinis a retired psychiatrist from Oakland, Calif., who woke up one morningin 2005 and felt like running for president. So that he did. Armed with$20,000 of his own money—Klein doesn’t do any fund raising of hisown—he started a field office in West Des Moines, Iowa, and says he hasa dozen volunteers who believe in his message. “Instead of in myretirement buying a fancy Mercedes, I decided to run for the WhiteHouse,” he told me.

Klein’s main goal is to strengthen the middle class .That means stemming the flow of illegal immigrants, imposing bankingregulations, and re-evaluating free-trade policies. “What passes forthe free market today is basically socialism for the very rich,” hesaid. He added that even though he lives an admittedly “prosperous”lifestyle and lives off stock dividends, he considers himself middleclass, since he has a net worth less than $10 million. He’s lessfocused on foreign policy (his campaign materials say it would play”second fiddle” to domestic policy), but says he wants to withdraw alltroops and supports the Bidenback strategy of dividing Iraq into three countries.

As if running for president wasn’t hard enough, Klein is convinced the GOP doesn’t like him. He claims the Iowa Republicans ignored his requests to be included in the AmesStraw Poll because they’re anti-Semitic (Klein is Jewish). Mary Tiffanyof the Iowa GOP told me his discrimination claims were baseless. Hejust didn’t pass muster when the State Central Committee chose whom toput on the ballot in Ames. “Mark Klein isn’t even a formidablecandidate,” she said, adding that she was surprised I was giving himthe time of day. If Klein had more press coverage and bigger events,she said, they might have listed him as a candidate. ( Eleven candidates were on the ballot , including John Cox and the then-unannounced Fred Thompson.)

Allof this creates a presidential Catch-22: Outsider candidates can’traise their profile at major events because they don’t have enough ofan infrastructure, but they can’t get the infrastructure they needbecause they don’t have the medium to spread their message.

Ofcourse, Klein could have gotten around this by running for some officeother than president. But those small-time positions didn’t interesthim. “I don’t waste my time,” he said.