Veteran Republican political operative Fred Karger took a large step toward announcing a presidential campaign on Tuesday, unveiling a television commercial and hiring staff in Iowa for a possible longshot bid at the White House. If he runs, Karger will be the first openly gay candidate for a major partys nomination in American history.
A political operative who served as an adviser to presidential candidates John Connally, Bob Dole and Paul Laxalt, Karger also worked with the presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
A longtime executive with the Dolphin Group, a well-established public relations and political strategy concern based in California, Karger has focused on same-sex issues in recent years, leading Californians Against Hate and fighting against Proposition 8, a measure that recognized only traditional marriages as legal. While Proposition 8 passed in November 2008, a federal judge struck it down, ruling it unconstitutional. Karger has taken aim at opponents of same-sex marriage, including launching boycotts and investigations against the Mormons and the National Organization for Marriage.
Karger launched a new commercial which will be running this week in Iowa, home of the first caucus, which kicks off the presidential nomination fight. Besides introducing himself to voters in the commercial, Karger attempts to brand himself as an independent Republican and refers to Reagan as his mentor.
In the commercial, Karger pledges to continue the fight for expanded civil rights. In remarks made to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans back in April, Karger specifically focused on calling to end the "don't ask, don't tell" military policy, passing the Employment Anti-Discrimination law and pulling the plug on the Defense of Marriage Act and supporting same-sex marriage at the national level. Karger also vowed to refocus efforts on finding a cure for HIV/AIDS.
In another sign that Karger is serious about launching a bid for the presidency, he also started hiring staff. On Tuesday, at a media conference in Des Moines, Karger tapped Nathan Treloar to serve as his director in Iowa. Teloar, who runs a consulting firm, has more than a decade of experience in the Hawkeye State, working as communications director of the Republican Party of Iowa.
Karger is hitting the ground running. He plans to spend the next week in Iowa -- his fifth visit to the state this year -- with events in Cedar Rapids, the Quad Cities, Mason City, Ames, Burlington and Fort Dodge.
If he decides to enter the presidential race, Karger faces a potentially crowded field for the Republican nomination. Polls have shown there is a top tier of candidates consisting of familiar faces from national politics and previous campaigns: former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts; former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee who moved to Florida earlier in the year; and former U.S House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia. Other potential candidates include Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota; Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana; Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi; U.S. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota; U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas; U.S. Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana; former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico; former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania; former Gov. George Pataki of New York; former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton; and businessman Herman Cain.
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