Out­side the de­bate: Cox says he stands for those ig­nored by GOP

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Stephen Di­nan

John Cox says all he wants is a chance to com­pete on a level Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial play­ing field.

The Chicago busi­ness­man was the first Repub­li­can to de­clare he was run­ning for the party’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion,has­spent­morethansome of the bet­ter-known can­di­dates and has even placed well in re­cent straw polls in South Carolina.

But he was stand­ing out­side the Ron­ald Rea­gan Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary & Mu­seum in Simi Val­ley, Calif., dur­ing the first Repub­li­can can­di­date de­bate on May 3, ar­gu­ing that he has as much right to be on the stage as the other can­di­dates do.

“I’m do­ing this be­cause I rep­re­sent that Repub­li­can ac­tivist that feels they’ve­been­tak­en­for­granted,they’ve beenig­nored.They’ve­g­ot­pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates that don’t fit their profile,” he said in an in­ter­view, in which he said the press is fail­ing to give him the time and at­ten­tion he de­serves.

Mr. Cox points to the Aiken County, S.C., straw poll on April 19 as proof of what he can do. As the only can­di­date to show up per­son­ally, he took 30 per­cent of the vote, edg­ing for­mer Mas­sachusetts Gov. Mitt Rom­ney by three per­cent­age points, al­though he did poorly in the state’s other coun­ties.

“I won the straw poll. I beat Rom­ney. [Ari­zona Sen. John] McCain and [Kansas Sen. Sam] Brown­back were in low sin­gle dig­its,” he said. “Aiken was the first real time I had a chance for an open play­ing field. [. . . ] They kind of left Aiken as a level play­ing field for us.”

The straw poll re­sults fol­low on a sur­vey taken by IowaPol­i­tics.com of Iowa Repub­li­can county chair­men in Fe­bru­ary and March, which found three­chair­man­com­mit­ted­toMr.Cox and 25 per­cent of all un­de­cided chair­men say­ing they are con­sid­er­ing sup­port­inghim—puttinghim­fifthon­the list, be­hind Mr. Rom­ney, for­mer New York Mayor Ru­dolph W. Gi­u­liani and oth­ers, but ahead of Mr. McCain.

Mr.Cox­hashad­partylead­er­swrite let­ters to the Rea­gan li­brary and other de­bate spon­sors on his be­half, ask­ing that he be in­cluded. But for now he says he’s caught in a Catch-22 — he can’t join the de­bates un­til he reg­is­ters in the polls, but he can’t gain ap­proval with­out get­ting at­ten­tion. He is an in­vestor with siz­able per­sonal wealth who says he will fund the op­er­a­tions through the end of the cam­paign. He saidany­do­na­tion­swill­beused­forads.

Mr. Cox has shown that he is will­ing to stake his money in the past, dol­ing out hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in failed bids to win Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tions for Congress from Illi­nois.

So far, with $745,000 con­trib­uted to this race, he’s al­most en­tirely self­funded. But he still out­spent many of the lower-tier elected of­fi­cials such as for­mer Vir­ginia Gov. James S. Gil­more III, who raised only about $200,000 in the first fundrais­ing quar­ter.Somepeo­ple­have­do­nated—tothe tune of $12,106 in con­tri­bu­tions from Jan. 1 through March 31 — al­most all of them com­ing in de­nom­i­na­tions lower than $50.

Ray­mond Thomas, who owns a plumb­ing­com­pa­ny­inGlouces­ter,Va., con­trib­uted $25, and said it was sim­ple for him.

“He’s a sup­porter of the ‘fair tax,’ ” re­fer­ring to Mr. Cox’s sup­port for re­plac­ing the cur­rent tax code with a na­tional sales tax. The idea is at­trac­tive to many con­ser­va­tives, though oth­ers fa­vor a flat in­come tax.

Mr. Cox hews to con­ser­va­tive po­si­tions up and down the line. Asked whether any­thing makes him stand out from the pack, he says only that he is an out­sider un­tainted by Wash­ing­ton and Repub­li­cans’ de­cline in that city un­der Pres­i­dent Bush.

He ap­pears con­flicted about what to make of for­mer Sen. Fred Thompson, who is con­sid­er­ing a pres­i­den­tial run. But he is bru­tal in as­sess­ing the rest of the field.

Ina14-page­doc­u­ment­ti­tled“Why not­theothers,”Mr.Cox­call­sMr.Rom­ney the “Mor­mon from Mas­sachusetts,”whoseso­cial-is­sues­recordis­du­bi­ous; la­bels Mr. McCain “McKennedy” for sid­ing too of­ten with Mas­sachusetts Demo­cratic Sen. Ed­wardM.Kennedy;and­saysformer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huck­abee “has hisown‘Wil­lieHor­ton’”forask­ingthe state pa­role board to re­lease a con­victed rapist.

Other than the elected of­fi­cials, one other Repub­li­can can­di­date, Michael Charles Smith, filed a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign-fi­nance re­port with the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion on April 15. But Mr. Smith’s po­si­tion­ing as a se­ri­ous can­di­date is ques­tion­able. His Web site, www.smith­for­pres­i­dent.com, even an­nounces sup­port for one of his ri­vals, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who “has a bit more cred­i­bil­ity from many years in gov­ern­ment ser­vice.”

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He wants in: John Cox

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