A group of Democratic political activists announced a campaign yesterday to get Chrysler Corp. Chairman Lee Iacocca to run for president.
The leaders of the Draft Lee Iacocca Committee said at a news conference that they have two immediate goals: to persuade Iacocca to run, and to see if there is enough potential public support to elect him.
Terrence O'Connell, one of the five members of the committee and vice president of a Washington consulting firm, said the group is convinced Iacocca could win the election. "Ninety percent of the American people know Lee Iacocca and a vast majority of those people like him and feel positively about him," O'Connell said.
Iacocca has said he does not want to run for president. The group has not discussed its plans with him, the members said yesterday. They have written a letter urging him to run and "got no response." Iacocca filed a letter with the Federal Elections Commission yesterday disavowing any connection with the group.
Iacocca would be drafted to run as a Democrat, if the drive is successful. He used to be a Republican but is not now registered with either party, Washington political consultant Greg Schneiders said. Schneiders said he thinks Iacocca's autobiography reflects a philosophy more in line with the Democratic Party, although he added that Iacocca's lack of party alignment may add to his appeal.
There are several technical obstacles to launching a campaign without the consent of its candidate, and enormous odds against a draft producing a winner.
Schneiders said the group may choose a surrogate to run in primaries in Iacocca's place until he "succumbs to the pressure" of voter support and decides to run. Another alternative might be to construct a network of Democratic convention delegates who are known to support Iacocca.
One of the difficulties, Schneiders added, is that although in most cases the committee doesn't need Iacocca's approval to put his name on Democratic primary ballots, Iacocca can have it removed.
Terry Schmidt, executive director of the group, said he is trying to run the campaign on a tight budget. He said it has raised $50,000 so far from friends of the organizers and Iacocca supporters and has spent $15,000. About 200 persons have volunteered, Schmidt said.