ST. PAUL, Minn.-Republican Congressman Ron Paul at times appeared to be running an independent campaign, even holding a separate convention, of sorts, alongside the main GOP event in St. Paul. But when the roll call began, Paul received no officially tabulated votes and apparently will not take his campaign independent. But a handful of third party and independent candidates are running races of their own. Here's a look at a few of the races on the road less traveled in presidential politics:
Chuck Baldwin is a presidential candidate with a diverse resumé: The founder and pastor of Crossroad Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., Baldwin is also a radio talk-show host, author, and newspaper columnist with political connections stretching back to President Ronald Reagan.
The Constitution candidate identifies a handful of key areas of policy proposals: Baldwin would disband the Department of Education and oppose any federal laws to subsidize or regulate education. He supports gun ownership for law-abiding citizens and opposes laws that require registration of guns or ammunition. The candidate is also pro-life and supports Rep. Ron Paul's Sanctity of Life Act, which he says would end legal abortion immediately by stripping from the Supreme Court jurisdiction over abortion-related cases.
Baldwin says he's disgruntled with both Democrats and Republicans, and he points out that Abraham Lincoln won the presidency when the Republican Party was "a minor third party."
"Sooner or later, an independent party, a third party, is going to break into the national limelight and is going to take that spotlight off the Republican Party and elect a president of the United States," Baldwin told The Herald Journal earlier this summer. "I would like to think it's gonna be 2008, and I would like to think that I'm the Abraham Lincoln of this generation."
Former Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003 as a Republican. The attorney served as a prominent figure in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. In 2004, Barr left the GOP and criticized the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war. The former congressman says he regrets voting for the Patriot Act, saying it violates civil liberties.
The candidate supports drastically cutting federal spending and reforming the tax code to reduce the tax burden, though he hasn't settled on a final proposal for tax reform. He advocates immigration policy that includes securing the borders, ending government benefits for illegal immigrants, ending requirements for government and public hospitals to treat illegal immigrants, and reconsidering American citizenship for children born in the United States to illegal immigrants. He also favors reforming entitlement programs to encourage private choice in health care and retirement.
Barr recently qualified for New Hampshire's presidential ballot by submitting 3,000 certified voter signatures just an hour-and-a-half before the state's deadline. Some Republicans fear Barr will siphon votes from McCain in a tight election in key races à la Ralph Nader in 2000.
Ralph Nader is also on the New Hampshire ballot, but as an independent. Many Democrats still resent Nader for his 2000 presidential bid as a Green Party candidate, saying Nader cost Democrat Al Gore the election by siphoning off votes in the key state of Florida. They fear a similar scenario could unfold in other states this year if Nader takes away votes from Obama. Democrats also fear Nader could cost Obama votes in key states such as Nevada, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania.
Nader supports a Canadian-style, national health insurance program, rejects nuclear energy, wants to adopt a carbon pollution tax, reverse U.S. policy in the Middle East, and impeach President Bush.
Alan Keyes is also running as an independent after losing his bid for the Constitution Party nomination. Keyes ran for the presidency in 2000, proposing to replace the income tax with a national sales tax, oppose legalized abortion, and support school choice. Keyes entered the race as a Republican candidate for the 2008 elections last year, but left the party in April to run as a Constitution candidate. He lost that bid to Baldwin a few weeks later. Keyes' campaign website doesn't outline key issues or policy positions for the candidate.
Both presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain are adult third culture kids, spending developmental years outside their passport cultures. Obama lived in Indonesia with his stepfather and mother. McCain was born in the Canal Zone and grew up as a military child in the Pacific.
Shelby Steele, a Hoover Institution fellow, had, like Obama, a black father and white mother. "Barack Obama is a man who truly wants to be black, a man who is determined to resolve the ambiguity he was born into," Steele writes in his book, A Bound Man. Politically, Obama has transcended the ambiguity with gifted political skills and an appealing story with hope for racial reconciliation. But, Steele writes, "Obama seems most pained when he is pressed for his true beliefs. . . . Obama is the very opposite of a Reagan-like conviction politician." Steele also contends that Obama was brought up with traditional values and has lived by them yet failed to build incentives to responsibility into his social policies.
Ruth Van Reken is an Indianapolis-based co-author of Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds. Raised in a missionary family in Nigeria, she served on the mission field in Liberia for many years and raised her children there with her husband David, a physician.
Third culture kids, like many homeschoolers, she writes, often have stronger relationships with adults. They can be perceived as arrogant-a charge slapped against both Obama and McCain. The world usually looks different to them because of their multicultural experiences. Many third culture kids develop a sense of a both/and identity rather than the traditional either/or identity common to those growing up in one culture.
"Obama is one of the millions of people across our globe who grew up among many different cultural worlds," Van Reken argues. "Ironically, among the common characteristics of these third culture kids is the capacity to be cultural bridges, to be able to see both sides of a situation."
And McCain? "He is seen as a maverick," she says, "because he frequently won't stay in his assigned box and has often voted across party lines."
Van Reken contends that this election raises cultural as well as political questions: "We are in the middle of a great developmental/cultural shift," she says. "We will face these shifts in our world, move forward through them, find new ways of defining and relating. Or we will wind up in the tribalism of so many other countries." That question goes beyond this presidential campaign. But in spite of the emphasis on their differences, both presidential candidates are bringing the issue before voters.