Constitution Party presidential nominee Virgil Goode may not have the name recognition, money or organizational strength of Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, but there's an outside chance he could swing the presidential election. The Virginian served six terms in Congress, first as Democrat and later as aRepublican, and still has fans in the battleground state, where Republicans are concerned he'll siphon off enough conservative votes from Romney to hand Obama Virginia, and potentially, depending on how the rest of the map works out, the presidency. He's polling at only about 2 percent, but the state GOP is concerned enough that it's suing to try to remove him from the ballot.
Goode, who was recently profiled by the Washington Post, doesn't fit neatly into any political box. He holds some conservative ideas that progressives will consider kooky -- like his plan to put a moratorium on immigration until the unemployment rate falls -- but he has a populist streak: He's firmly against special interest PAC money and has no time for Paul Ryan's plan to voucherize Medicare. He spoke to Salon for the first installment of our Better Know a Lesser-Known Candidate series. Our conversation has been lightly edited for brevity.
So how’s the campaign going?
Well, we’re working hard. Of course we don’t have the monetary resources of Obama or Romney, so that makes it an uphill battle. But we’re doing everything we can. A number of persons are dissatisfied with both Romney and Obama, and I think we’ll get votes from some people that probably just were not going to vote.
Some Republicans are afraid that you could hurt Romney in Virginia and potentially cost him the presidency. What do you say to them?
Well, most Republicans are going to vote for Romney. I’ve had very few Republicans who have said they’re going to vote for me. I have had some who said they voted for Obama last time, and now said they would vote for me. But these are old-line Democrats that would never vote for a Republican, so that’s not taking a vote from Romney. And we’re going to get votes from a lot of people that, as I said, weren’t going to vote, didn’t like the choices.
What makes you different from Obama or Romney?
Oh, many things. First of all, I’m for a balanced budget now. Obama’s budget was a trillion in deficit, and Paul Ryan’s budget was over $600 billion in deficit. In the area of jobs, we differ significantly. Obama slams Romney’s past performances and his job theory, and Romney does the same for Obama’s. One thing that would easily work -- and I’m the only candidate that’s focusing on it -- is not allowing so many foreign workers with green cards to come into this country. We need a near complete moratorium on the issuance of green cards until unemployment's under 5 percent. They’re taking jobs from Americans, and when you have high unemployment you need to save jobs for those that are here, not bring in more foreign workers. Another difference is that I am for [congressional] term limits, Obama and Romney aren’t speaking out on that. The fourth difference is I’m not taking PAC money, and both Obama and Romney are. And we’re limiting individual donations to $200, except for me and some leftover campaign funds.
You’ve said the difference between Obama and Romney is the “difference between tweedledum and tweedledee.” It seems to me like there’s huge differences between them.
Well, on immigration, as I said, I’m the only candidate who’s willing to stand up to the influx of so many green card holders into the United States. I am the only candidate that’s willing to slash our foreign aid. George Bush provided a lot of foreign aid, Obama even topped that. And if you heard Mitt Romney up at Clinton’s Global Initiative, you’ll know that he wants to pull more money into foreign aid too. I disagree. And unlike Obama and Romney, I’d bring us home from Afghanistan, unless Congress is willing to make a declaration of war. The situation with Iran, it will take a congressional declaration of war before we go to war with them. And you’ve got a ton of areas where there’s just not that much difference between the two.
How would you describe your political ideology?
I’m a conservative, but with a focus on average people. For instance, I support Social Security and Medicare. And I disagree with Paul Ryan about the need to turn Medicare into a voucher program. Neither Obama nor Romney favors a true lockbox for Social Security. I do. You’ve got to cut everything in general fund, and you also need to cut defense. Republicans don’t want to cut defense, Obama will do it some.
Do you think you can win?
If I had 100 million people look at my website, we’d win the election. Or if I could get into the debates, which is never going to happen because of the Democratic and Republican control over them, we’d win the election too -- because the majority of the American people, in my view, understand common-sense solutions.
If you had to pick one of the two candidates, or if it came down to a situation where you had a chunk of the vote and could swing it either way by dropping out and telling your supporters to vote for Romney or Obama, who would you go with?
Well, I’m not going to drop out. If it comes down to a choice between only Obama or Romney, I’d write in Virgil Goode, because Virgil Goode is the best choice for president.