By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
FREDERICKSBURG — Racing against a Friday deadline to collect enough signatures to make the Virginia ballot, Constitution Party presidential candidate Virgil Goode says Mitt Romney is “leading Republicans over a cliff.”
Goode, a former six-term GOP congressman from Southside Richmond, told Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau in an exclusive interview he is “cautiously optimistic” about qualifying for the November ballot.
The state requires 10,000 signatures from registered voters.
Goode says his campaign has submitted nearly 20,000 signatures while going for more to ensure he has the mandated minimum of 400 in each of the Old Dominion’s 11 congressional districts.
To some, the presidential bid by the 65-year-old Richmond native looks quixotic, and even downright dangerous to some on the right.
“He’s a great conservative heading on a trip to nowhere and willing to take us all down with him,” says Rick Buchanan of the Fauquier County Tea Party.
Conventional wisdom suggests that Goode — a social and fiscal conservative — could peel off just enough votes from Romney to throw Virginia to Barack Obama. Various polls show Obama’s slight lead widening with Goode in the race. The president won the state in 2008.
Virginia GOP Chairman Pat Mullins has said Virginia, along with Florida and Ohio, are crucial to the 2012 election, and that Romney must win two of the three to beat Obama.
Goode says the two major parties offer flawed choices, and he rejects the electoral calculus in his home state, where he previously served in the state Senate and twice ran for U.S. Senate.
“We’re going to take a lot of votes from Obama. Disgruntled Democrats will not vote for a Republican, but they’ll vote for me,” he predicted.
The former representative, who lost his 5th District seat by 727 votes in 2008, was first elected as an Independent, then as a Democrat and finally as a Republican.
Both the Democratic and Republican standard bearers should worry seniors this year, he says.
“Seniors are concerned about Medicare and Social Security. I advocated in Congress a separate and distinct lockbox fund for Social Security. Obama took $600 billion out of Medicare to help pay for Obamacare,” he says.
As for the Republicans, Goode says the Medicare reforms proposed by Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would make “huge changes” — and not for the better.
“It will give you some money to duke it out with the insurance companies, which can be a daunting task. I would make sure all money in Medicare goes to Medicare,” Goode said.
Goode says the two major parties are also off base on immigration.
“Obama gave temporary amnesty to well over 1 million illegal immigrants, and Romney said nothing,” he said.
Goode calls immigration an economic issue, and he supports the kinds of restrictions enacted in Arizona and Alabama.
He said the administration’s decision to “give out more green cards makes no sense when we have 8.3 percent unemployment. The green card is a pathway to citizenship, and (the president) assumes they’ll vote Democrat. Meantime, the average citizen is getting the shaft.
“Romney says he loves immigration. I’ve called for a nearly complete moratorium (on green-card issuance) until unemployment is under 5 percent. We shouldn’t bring in foreign workers to do jobs that belong to U.S. citizens.”
Goode takes a further shot at Romney, saying the former Massachusetts governor “would cave in to political correctness.”
“He wouldn’t stand up to Obama’s amnesty order. He wouldn’t even stand up for Chick-fil-A. He’ll lead Republicans over a cliff.”
Despite his stern rhetoric and his commitment to balance the budget before Romney-Ryan would, Goode’s gambit frustrates and flummoxes tea party leaders contacted by Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau.
“I’d ask him why, knowing that his candidacy is utterly doomed and he risks bearing the blame for Obama’s re-election if he polls well enough in Virginia, why he would entirely throw out any future opportunity for public service and make himself into a pariah?” said Greg Letiecq of the Manassas Tea Party.
“He has served with distinction for many years and done much good. To end his political career this way seems to make no sense at all.”
John Jaggers of the Northern Virginia Tea Party was even blunter.
“Anyone not behind Team Romney and Team Ryan lacks the material to function in a civil society. The world works in dualities, and the two political parties work to ensure there will only be two parties. This third-party stuff is utter silliness,” Jaggers said.
But recent surveys indicate the two-party system is turning off voters in record numbers. A USA Today/Suffolk University Poll reported last week that 90 million registered voters plan to sit out the 2012 election — 10 million more than four years ago.
“Romney’s theme is simply ‘I’m not Obama,'” Goode grouses. “I disagree with that strategy.”
Still, Goode has no illusions about winning the White House, noting that his name may appear on fewer state ballots than Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin in 2008. Baldwin, who was on 37 state ballots, received 0.15 percent of the national vote.
While acknowledging that Virginia tea partiers haven’t appreciated his right jabs at Romney, Goode says his low-budget, grassroots campaign is about offering an alternative to America’s big-money political duopoly.
Stephen Farnsworth, political science professor at the University of Mary Washington, told the Washington Times: “I think in politics every now and then you run into politicians who have a strong commitment to values.
“Virgil Goode is one of those really committed conservatives that wants to be part of the conversation. To view him as an opportunist would be a misread.”
As he drove around eastern Virginia to garner the requisite voter signatures in the 3rd and 8th congressional districts last weekend, Goode said, “People from both parties tell me they’re fed up with all the negative ads and super PACs. I’m limiting contributions to $200 and no PAC donations.”
Contact Kenric Ward at [email protected]