List: Rough Gravel

Three lessons from the 2008 campaign


In April 2006, former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel became the first official candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Two years and only about 25,000 votes later, he left the party to seek the Libertarian nomination. "I'm a classical liberal," Gravel said during an April interview. "All of those other candidates, they scared the hell out of me."

Gravel grumbled his way through every Democratic debate until October, when he was excluded because of his low totals in the polls. reason asked him for three lessons he learned from his experience as a major-party candidate.

1. Debates are unfair. "We haven't seen real debates. The debates have been designed to sell the anchors of the networks—not a debate between candidates. That final debate [between Clinton and Obama] in Philadelphia was a farce."

2. Little guys always get shafted. "Before I'd arrive at the CNN and MSNBC debates, I'd ask: 'Are you going to provide equal time?' They'd say yes. So why do you think I was so mad when they finally called on me? I was standing on the edge of the stage, getting no questions! How would you feel if you were being lied to and you couldn't go over and punch the guy who'd lied to you in the mouth?"

3. Democrats are bad news. "I was sucking up their air, so they wanted me out of there. I don't want anything to do with the Democratic Party."