Fringe: New Hampshire Edition

Shira Schoenberg files a wonderfully colorful piece from Concord, watching all manner of carbon-based lifeforms file to run for president because… well, why not? The ballot is an “equalizer between top-tier, perennial candidates,” which is a nice framework that avoids the boring reality: Thanks to Mitt Romney’s commanding lead, New Hampshire’s become a bit of dead zone.

About those fringe candidates. What do they believe?

Mark Callahan, 34, of Oregon, is unemployed with a background in information technology, and is worried about jobs. He wants to repeal Obama’s health care and financial regulatory overhauls. He also wants to reduce regulations, expand oil exploration, balance the federal budget, and deport illegal immigrants.

That sounds like… every Republican candidate for president, doesn’t it? Replace “deport illegal immigrants” with “build an electrified fence that shoots alligators at people,” and you’ve got the Cain candidacy. This is rather the norm for fringe candidates, here and in local races – there’s no shortage of people who have mainstream ideological positions that they can explain coherently, just a shortage of people who want to put the work in.

[Keith] Drummond has never so much as run for local school board, but says he knows how to lead. He values simplicity and believes the other candidates’ plans are too complex.

“Cut one-third off the budget immediately, begin to live within our means, pay off our debt,” he said.

Isn’t this basically the platform of the entire GOP freshman class? The characterization of these people as “fringe” is accurate, but it stirs an existential thought. Only one Republican candidate for president is going to win. The rest are doing… what, exactly? We can have a giggle at “Linden Swift, an 81-year-old retiree from Indiana who failed in his effort to plan a vacation to Ireland,” but is Linden Smith less likely to take the oath of office than Rick Santorum is? Is a lark vacation that much more frivolous a pursuit than a book tour for your spouse’s illustrated children’s epic? The presidential campaign is, at this point, radically over-covered, so there’s no easier way to get a reporter to take your political opinions seriously than to run. It’s a bit of an American oddity; in Britain, the people who file to run in the prime minister’s constiuency don’t usually get so much coverage.