“Jesus did not have a campaign staff. And he had the most successful campaign in human history,” Clayton said recently, when asked if all this adds up to a winning run against incumbent Sen. Bob Corker (R). Jesus “didn’t even have pictures or a Web site.”
This may be America’s worst candidate.
Clayton, 36, is a part-time flooring installer, an indulger in conspiracy theories — and for Democrats here, the living personification of rock bottom. In a state that produced Democratic icons including Andrew Jackson and both Al Gores, the party has fallen so far that it can’t even run a good loser.
Instead, it has this guy. In Tennessee, Clayton’s unlikely run is providing an absurdist coda to a long Democratic disaster. Something like falling down a flight of stairs onto a whoopee cushion.
“It’s pretty sad. I mean, when your nomination is not worth having, that’s embarrassing,” said Will T. Cheek, a Nashville investor who has been a member of the state Democratic Party’s executive committee since 1970. “That would appear to be where we are.”
Every election, of course, is crowded with losers: the sacrificial lambs, the one-issue zealots, the novelty name-changers (Thomas Jefferson, of Kansas, is running for Congress. Santa Claus, of Nevada, is running for president).
But Clayton stands out. Nobody who has the opportunity he has — a major-party nomination for the Senate in a nail-biter election in which every Senate race has outsize importance — has so little chance of taking advantage of it.
In Wyoming, Democratic challenger Tim Chesnut is a long shot; his actual slogan is “Chesnut is the best nut for Senate.” But he at least has his party behind him. In Washington, Republican challenger Michael Baumgartner recently told a reporter to “go [expletive] yourself.” But he at least has raised nearly $1 million.
In Tennessee, Clayton’s policy ideas set him apart from many other Democrats: He is unusual in opposing abortion rights and same-sex marriage, but he’s downright exceptional in saying that the Transportation Security Administration “mandates [transsexuals] and homosexuals grabbing children in their stranger-danger zones.”
He has been a volunteer for Public Advocate of the United States, a Falls Church-based organization that was branded a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-gay rhetoric.
During Clayton’s failed Senate run in 2008, his Web site suggested that the U.S. government might be replaced with a “North American Union” and that Google was working against him at the behest of the Chinese government.
But his ideas about campaigning itself might be even more unorthodox. Almost everything other candidates do, Clayton said, is wrong.