Election 101: Eleven facts about Buddy Roemer and his presidential bidCharles “Buddy” Roemer is trying to stage a comeback. After nearly two decades out of office, the four-term congressman and one-time Louisiana governor declared his candidacy for president on Thursday in New Hampshire.
An old-fashioned, charismatic Southern pol, the thrice-married, twice-divorced candidate may be hamstrung by his negligible name recognition, constituency, and funds.
- Husna Haq, Correspondent1. Who is he?
Mr. Roemer described himself this way at an Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition event in March: “I’ve always been a churchgoing Methodist boy from a cotton field in north Louisiana.”
Born in Shreveport, Roemer graduated as valedictorian of his high school class and entered Harvard University when he was just 16. Roemer went on to earn his MBA from Harvard and work in his father’s computer business before entering politics.
In 1972, he was elected as a delegate to the Louisiana Constitutional Convention. He went on to serve four terms as a Democratic representative of Louisiana’s Fourth district, followed by one term as governor of Louisiana, during which he switched parties.
Roemer, who is now the founder and president of Business First Bank, is known as an old-fashioned Southern pol with an eccentric streak and a rousing stump speech.2. Why is he running?
For starters, Roemer wants a national platform to talk about campaign-finance reform, which he’s made the central issue of his campaign.
“He’s got a message about economic planning and fiscal responsibility, and he thinks he has the answer that no one else has,” says Natalie Davis, a political scientist at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama. “That’s why he wants to get in it.”
In addition, Roemer may be using the primary race as a way to get back into political office – even if it’s not the White House, says Ford O’Connell, chairman of the Virginia-based CivicForumPAC.
“He wants back into politics, Mr. O’Connell says. “This is his way back in.... Buddy’s looking down the road possibly to a run, maybe back in Louisiana.”
Even if he doesn’t win, says Allan Lichtman, a presidential historian at American University in Washington, “He’s got us talking about him.”3. What does he stand for?
“He thinks the Republican field is bought and paid for by special interests,” says O’Connell. Roemer seems to be designing his campaign in response to what he sees as a major problem in modern campaigns.
“I’m going to be independent from the big money, Wall Street money, special-interest money. That’s going to be my mark in this campaign,” Roemer recently told Politico.
He seems ready to stand by his pledge. His campaign motto is “free to lead,” and Roemer is refusing donations from political-action committees or major corporations and limiting donations to $100 – well short of the $2,500 allowed for donations by an individual.4. What are his strengths?
Roemer is the rare candidate who has congressional, gubernatorial, and business experience, as well as a sound mix of substance and style.
He likes to point out that he’s the only “guy running who’s been both a governor and a congressman.” As governor, Roemer balanced Louisiana’s budget, cut the state’s unemployment rate by about half, and enacted campaign-finance reform legislation.
Besides more than a decade of experience in elected office, the former governor is a talented orator. He spouts populist one-liners – “I think privilege is fine, but we need to be a party of plain people,” – with old-fashioned Southern charm.
“He’s an affable, smart guy,” O’Connell says, “and he gives a great stump speech.”
With presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich faltering and Texas Gov. Rick Perry yet to enter the race, “He could portray himself as the Southern candidate,” adds Professor Lichtman.5. His weaknesses?
“Pretty glaring,” O’Connell says. “No one knows who he is, he’s from the Deep South, he’s got no major funding outside of his own personal wealth.”
Moreover, Roemer has been out of politics for close to two decades and has no real base, says Professor Davis, making his prospects fade fast.
“He’s not from a big state, he doesn’t have a calling card, he doesn’t have a natural constituency,” she says. “There’s nothing about him that’s particularly intriguing.... I can’t come up with any kind of scenario where he could do well.”6. If he's a long shot, what does he bring to the race?
Roemer’s tough stance on campaign-finance reform may serve to challenge his contenders, says O’Connell.
“He could be an irritant to some of the candidates,” he says. “What I think he brings is the ability to ask the important questions.... Here’s an outsider who really is authentically asking questions that a lot of people don’t want to answer.”7. How's his war chest?
To date, Roemer has raised nearly $96,000, of which $10,000 came from his own pocket. As part of his pledge to reject special-interest money, Roemer has said he will not take PAC donations and will limit campaign contributions to $100 per person.8. What is his political experience?
Roemer served four terms in Congress as the Democratic representative of Louisiana’s Fourth district (1981-1988). In 1988, he succeeded Edwin Edwards in a closely followed election to become the 52nd governor of Louisiana. During his governorship, in 1991, he changed his party affiliation to Republican.9. What is his family and religious background?
Thrice married, twice divorced, Roemer is now married to his third wife, Scarlett. He has two children, Caroline and Charles, with his first wife and high school sweetheart, Frances Demler, whom he divorced in 1972. Roemer also has a son, Dakota, with his second wife, Patti Crocker, whom he also divorced. Roemer describes himself as a “churchgoing Methodist boy.”10. Has he written any books?
Going against the grain, Roemer has yet to write a campaign book and has no significant media appearances.11. In his own words
“I should be president or somebody better than I should be.... The only way to make sure of that is to make my opponents go around me, through me, or over me in the primaries.”
“I’d love to be president. I would settle for somebody better than me, but I haven’t seen them out there.”
“Now I’m not good at my politics. I make people angry. I know that. But I care. I care more for the future than the past.”http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Elections/ ... /Who-is-he