From House to White House Is Not a Road Well Traveled

(Dennis Brack - Bloomberg News)
By Lois Romano
Thursday, March 8, 2007

Consider this list of members of the House: liberal Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), conservative Duncan Hunter (R- Calif.), libertarian Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and anti-illegal-immigration crusader Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.). What do they have in common?

They're all running for president.

You may be among the 1 percent of voters who already knew that and are supporting one of them. But if you are among the other 99 . . . well, you see their problem.

The Senate has all the big-name candidates, though pundits like to note that a senator hasn't made it to the White House directly since John F. Kennedy. History is even more unkind to House members.

The last -- and only -- member of the House elected directly to the presidency was our 20th, James Garfield, a piece of trivia not known by many.

"I know it was a long time ago," offered Hunter.

In fact, 127 years ago.

(Since Garfield was from Ohio, Kucinich knew the history.)

While all four are polling at 1 percent or less, they say they have as good a shot as any of the 20 other contenders.

"I know this: People are unhappy with the political status quo like never before," said Paul, who is vocally opposed to the war in Iraq. "The question is whether I am the right person with the right message to reach them."

Paul, who ran as a Libertarian in 1988, said the Internet has changed things for less-known candidates: "I'm utterly amazed by the broad reach. I raised more money when I set up the exploratory committee than I ever did with a piece of direct mail."

Tancredo and Hunter are seeking support from core conservatives desperate for a candidate because they can't get enthusiastic about the Republicans at the top of the polls, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. Tancredo has managed to attract the kind of publicity he wants by standing to the right of many conservatives. He was one of 33 legislators to oppose the renewal of the Voting Rights Act and has criticized President Bush's stance on immigration.

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