Crashing the party: Republican strategist turned gay rights activist ponders a White House run

Potential Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger, a political strategist turned gay rights activist, has been campaigning in New Hampshire with the hope of influencing the debate about his party's policies.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 2, 2011; 12:31 PM

ON ROUTE 202, N.H. — The candidate can't find his lane. The road is a crunchy carpet of snow. The candidate drifts too far to the right. The rumble strip rattles his car. The candidate drifts too far to the left.

"I can't tell where — " he says, squinting into the swirling void.

"We're in the middle of the road," says his research assistant calmly.

The car stereo belts the Act 1 finale from the Broadway musical "Wicked," which is about the Wicked Witch of the West and how she chose Evil to get ahead but then chose Good because that's how all fables end.

The candidate — the man behind the wheel, the man who can't find his lane — is a guy named Fred. He's exploring the possibility of running for president of the United States.

He is doing this as an openly gay Republican who's never held elective office, using money he amassed as a conservative consultant who helped torpedo Michael Dukakis with the Willie Horton ads in 1988 and worked for the tobacco industry to stave off smoking bans in California in the '90s.

Fred Karger, 61, is a nice guy.

He wants his country to see that. He wants young gay people to see him run for president. He'd be the first-ever openly gay presidential candidate for a major party if he formally declares. He can see himself as the moderate voice in a debate crowded with hard-liners.

He has visited New Hampshire more than any other presidential prospector in this young election cycle. This skiddy late-night ride from a gathering in Keene to his Concord hotel is part of his 11th trip to the state in the past year. He's slingshotting around, hosting tiny town halls, collecting volunteers one by one and arranging coffee dates with policy experts, academics and state politicians.

This is not a stunt, Fred insists.

* * *

A vital and misleading amendment to the American dream is "Anyone Can Grow Up to Be President."

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