What Roemer and McCotter can learn from Alan Keyes

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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When the next GOP presidential debate kicks off on Thursday former Louisiana governor and Rep. Buddy Roemer, and Rep. Thad McCotter will once again be excluded.

(*** Update: Since posting this, I learned that The Politico Playbook is reporting: “It looks like Gary Johnson, who was New Mexico governor from 1994-2003, is going to qualify for the Orlando debate, in addition to the eight from the previous two debates, per Republican sources.”)

There are, of course, “rules” governing participation. They are ostensibly based on “objective criteria,” but organizers have found creative ways to exclude the aforementioned candidates, while somehow allowing other candidates polling in the low single digits — such as Jon Huntsman — to participate.

So what should Roemer, McCotter, and Johnson do?

Their strategy has ranged from telling reporters what they might say (if they were at the debate), to posting funny videos. Instead, might I suggest they take a page from the Alan Keyes playbook?

Keyes, of course, was a former diplomat, and perennial candidate, but he had panache. When Keyes was excluded from first Republican debate in 1996, he staged a hunger strike and accused organizers of trying “to stand in the schoolhouse door and tell me I can’t participate in this process.”

Roemer, McCotter, and Johnson can’t play the race card (or even the gender card) — but they can still take a page from the Keyes playbook.

A week after announcing his hunger strike, Keyes showed up at the next debate. When an Atlanta TV station wouldn’t allow him inside, Keyes attempted to storm the station. He was ultimately handcuffed and led away. “My crime is being qualified to be president,” Keyes reportedly uttered.

This was all good press, of course. And perhaps not coincidentally, in 2000, Keyes was included in the GOP primary debates.

If Roemer, McCotter, and Johnson want to gain respect (or, at least, attention), they should join forces, take a road trip to Florida, show up at the debate, and demand to be allowed to participate.