Fossilman eyes Libertarian VP run

23 May 2007

Vice President Fossilman?

Greg Raymer, a name made famous worldwide the day he won the 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event, has been in contact with Libertarian Party officials and is seriously considering a vice presidential run in 2008.

He will not make his decision until spring 2008, just before the Libertarian National Convention, but said he'd be willing to discuss the option and his platforms with anyone during downtime at the 2007 WSOP.

"I had a conversation with one of the top guys in the Libertarian party who wanted to get a famous poker player involved," Raymer said. "I know they approached other guys like Andy Bloch, but I don't think Andy is very libertarian and may be too liberal. I contacted the guy after hearing of the plan and I told him I might be interested."

The Libertarian Party is the third-largest national party behind the Republicans and Democrats. A Libertarian candidate has never made a serious run for the presidency, but Raymer said it's less about winning and more about exposing ideas.

Third party organizations are generally comprised of disaffected mainstream people, said Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Boston University. Poker players represent such a group, especially U.S. online poker players fighting anti-gambling legislation.

Zelizer said fringe parties can go one of two routes, convert a polished politician who is interested in promoting the cause, or enlist a celebrity who can attract media attention.

"It sounds like this guy (Raymer) can get the party media coverage that otherwise wouldn't exist," Zelizer said. "The media always covers celebrities who are running for office and that's the advantage. The danger is it looks too pragmatic (having a poker player promoting a poker issue). The negative part of that is it can diminish his candidacy and the image of the party. It can work, but it's a delicate balance."

Libertarians, in general, believe in individual liberty and self responsibility, Raymer said. The party strongly opposes government interference in personal, family or business-related issues, according to the party's Web site.

Raymer has certain issues, like online gambling, that are important to him and his professional career. But he says he has been a staunch Libertarian for a couple decades, voting along party lines in the last few national elections. He also says his platform would include more than poker issues.

Mainstream Americana is more familiar with the Libertarian positions on free drug use and governmental reduction, but Raymer said these positions are often misconstrued in the media, creating the illusion that Libertarians are radical.

"I think a Libertarian candidate would do a better job of running the country than any of the Republicans or Democrats we've seen," Raymer said. "It's inherently better when a candidate believes in the philosophy of being able to do what you deem is right, as long as you don't hurt anyone else in the process."

As for eliminating drug laws, Raymer said a person who starts using a narcotic like Cocaine "is extremely stupid," but well within their rights as a human being to do with their body what they wish. Raymer believes in a political process free from morality-based judgments, leaving decisions in the hands of the adults who make them.

Gambling, more specifically online poker, falls under Raymer's live-and-let-live umbrella. Raymer believes gambling should be legal for everyone, everywhere.

"Personal morals are great and it's good for a person to have them," Raymer said. "But when you apply your morality to me, we're talking fascism."

Raymer distinguishes himself from the hardcore Libertarians by believing that some governmental intervention is acceptable and necessary. He believes in "common sense" interventions like national defense, a strong police force and age limits for the so-called morality laws.

People who are not old enough to decide what's best for them require protection from the government, like under-age gamblers or smokers, Raymer says. But once they reach adulthood, Raymer believes it's no longer the government's place to intervene. He said many of his fellow poker players, especially those involved in online poker, hold similar beliefs.

"A poker player is more likely to be a Libertarian," Raymer said. "It's a game of self-sufficiency where self-discipline often produces success. It's a natural fit."

Much like poker, politics has always been a passion for Raymer. He's considered entering the political arena before and has worked as a board member for the Poker Player's Alliance. But time and money restraints have kept from running for office.

Despite his monetary poker successes ($5 million in 2004), Raymer said it would take another big win or two before he tired of the game and was established enough to ensure his family's long-term success. Only then would he put the cards down for a full-time career in politics. But he didn't rule out the possibility.

"A third-party offers room for him (Raymer) to enter into the political realm," Zelizer said. "These parties need someone with some type of appeal."

Raymer says his poker career is one of the reasons he doesn't want to be at the top of the ticket.. He wants to lend his name to the party in the hope that it of garners attention and grows, but he doesn't believe he has the time or experience for an all-out campaign.

Libertarians nominate their presidential and vice-presidential candidates separately. And because the Libertarian presidential candidate does not choose his running mate, which allows Raymer to run for the second position if he chooses.

Raymer said famed Las Vegas sports-handicapper Wayne Allyn Root is one person being considered for the top spot. Root has a Web site devoted to his bid for the Libertarian nomination called www.millionairerepublican.com.

"He would be a good person to get out message out," Raymer said. "He's very good at self promotion. He's like the Phil Hellmuth of the handicapping world."

And when can the poker world expect to see the famed-hologram glasses on a campaign poster?

"If I decide to run, I will do some campaigning in time for the national convention next spring and hope for the best," Raymer said.


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