By Sharon Kehnemui
Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer is running for president, but the challenge of getting Republican primary voters to recognize his name is harder for him than most since he can't campaign in Iowa.
"Iowa is a problem for me. I'd love to go," Roemer said.
The problem, Roemer told editorial staff during a 50-minute interview with Fox News on Monday, is he wants to get rid of ethanol subsidies -- and that doesn't play well in the Hawkeye State, where he had visited last month for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition event.
In fact, the former congressman, who served seven years as a House Democrat during the Reagan administration, says he also wants to get rid of oil company subsidies and the recent bank overhaul law and the new health insurance law and most of the tax code, not to mention the influence of money in politics.
The long-shot candidate who's been out of elected office for nearly 20 years, says he's a "special kind of Republican" -- one who had to become a Republican in order to break one-party rule in his home state.
He rails against President Obama, calling him an "embarrassment" for starting his presidential campaign while still trying to develop an annual budget two years before the start of a would-be second term. But he doesn't question Obama's constitutional authority to serve.
"All the evidence I've seen is that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii," he said.
He's "not a fan" of the repeal of the military's don't ask, don't tell policy that allows gays to serve openly, but the "generals say that they thought they would make it work," and so he'll wait and see.
He would increase Social Security's solvency by raising the retirement age by one month per year over 24 years -- in other words, raise the age by two years over the next 24.
As a diabetic, he said he has a very real interest in health care reform, but blasts the new law because it does not include tort reform, offers no negotiating with pharmaceutical companies and doesn't allow insurance companies to compete across state lines.
He fought for the reduction of air pollution while governor of Louisiana, balanced the budget and increased teachers' pay by 30 percent in three years, "if they could teach."
Roemer said he will win people over by cutting through the corruption cash causes and getting back to relying on the free market.
That includes getting rid of oil subsidies and ethanol subsidies. Roemer called them "a gift" that the Big 3 oil companies, Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland don't need.
At the same time, Roemer said he wants a tariff on oil from overseas. That does not include Mexico and Canada, which he would consider domestic oil production sources, but it definitely targets Russia, Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East.
"Venezuela's history," he added, though Brazil is a neighbor that could get an exception from a tariff.
Roemer said he will set a deadline to get off foreign oil by the end of the decade from the time he's inaugurated -- hypothetically, January 2013.
He said he would be interested in more oil drilling in North America, both onshore and offshore; favors new nuclear plant construction, especially those that count on gravity and not electricity for water supplies; clean coal, if it's actually a product; and alternative fuel sources.
"The market will determine the price of gas, but the tariff will determine the price of Middle East gas," he said, adding, "Natural gas is the big winner."
On taxes, Roemer said he'd like to slim down the 6,500-page tax code and lower the marginal rate. He would minimize deductions but leave in charitable and medical exemptions and widen the middle class and reduce the government's share of domestic product to 18.5 percent.
"That means everyone's paying a little, but the wealthy are paying a little more," Roemer said. And the tax code will be written so the "average, plain person can actually master" the system.
A banker himself, Roemer said he wants to get rid of "too big to fail" banks, which he claims brought this country to the brink once and are now positioning to do so again.
Roemer argued that the 19 banks on Wall Street all had a hand in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform legislation. It's obvious, he said, since according to the law, the larger the bank, the smaller the amount of capital is required.
"The next financial collapse is already in writing," said Roemer, who owns a bank that in the last five years has gone from zero to $688 million in earnings "one good loan at a time."
He's a long shot, to say the least, but Roemer says he has a plan to up his name ID, and it doesn't look like Newt Gingrich's or Mitt Romney's or former President George W. Bush's or Obama's, all whom he called out by name as being beholden to special interests.
His exploratory committee is betting on a retail campaign that targets New Hampshire, South Carolina and yes, Iowa, and thinks he can grab national headlines by asking one in every 100 Americans to give him $100.
That's $300 billion just for the primary. After that, if he gets the nomination, he'll ask two out of every 100 Americans to give him $100. That's $600 billion to compete for the presidency.
"It's about the money. I'm going to spend more money than any candidate but Barack Obama," he said.
The strategy, which Roemer says will enable him to avoid special interests like unions, corporations, political action committees, the Chamber of Commerce or any other group that wants to influence politics, means winning more than 3 million people during the primary, and another 6 million in the general election.