Blake Ashby and Bill Wyatt know they are political lightweights, challenging a reigning champion who has the approval of about 65 percent of the nation.
Although Republican leaders say most Missourians support President Bush, Ashby and Wyatt will run against the incumbent in the Missouri Republican presidential primary on Feb. 3.
Both have simple reasons for their campaigns. Ashby, a St. Louis businessman, is angry about the Bush administration’s decisions. Wyatt, a Los Angeles T-shirt store-owner, is against war and wants voters to have a choice.
Neither candidate harbors illusions about winning the nomination, and Wyatt said he can’t beat Bush’s money.
“If I could have every candidate run without a penny in his pocket, that’s the way to be fair,” Wyatt said.
“We’re creating presidents that are salespeople. They’re basically panhandlers in limousines.”
Ashby and Wyatt said Bush no longer represents Republican values. Ashby is against the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which he said makes unfunded requirements of schools.
Both are angry about increased government spending and the war in Iraq. Wyatt is anti-war, and Ashby thinks Iraq was handled incorrectly.
“The first two rules of war have always been first to capture the other side’s army, then to take away all their weapons,” Ashby said.
“We did not invade Iraq with enough troops to capture its army. The troops we didn’t capture are using the arms we didn’t take away to kill U.S. soldiers.”
Ashby is a Kansas City native who lives in St. Louis. He studied political science at the University of Missouri in both Kansas City and St. Louis, but never graduated. He declared his candidacy for president in November and has spent $10,000 on his campaign.
Wyatt was born in Washington, D.C., where he learned that anyone could run for president. He attended San Francisco State University and worked in student government.
Wyatt has never held public office but has run for many — including California governor during the October recall election. Charges that Wyatt obstructed California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bus were recently dismissed.
R.W. Bernhardt, a member of the Boone County Republican Central Committee, said dissenters such as Ashby and Wyatt exist in any election.
Although Wyatt filed to run in July, he said he is frustrated with his party partly because many states canceled Republican primaries. He is running on the Democratic ticket in Arizona because the Republican presidential preference election was canceled. Although anyone who votes in the election must be a registered Democrat, Wyatt said he expects to defeat Bush in the state.
Running against strong incumbents is standard practice for Wyatt, he said. His goal is to use elections to reveal issues of concern, and he believes running is a public service.
Bernhardt said he has never heard of Ashby or Wyatt and believes Bush has done his best in office.
“I don’t agree with my wife sometimes, but I’m not going to throw her over either,” Bernhardt said.
Ashby has never held public office, though he has worked for U.S. Sen. Jim Talent’s campaign. He said he is not really a politician, but he spoke in New Hampshire forums for fringe candidates. Ashby is beginning to send out e-mails and news releases and says he will speak wherever he can.
“This is the United States,” Ashby said. “If you have the guts to try it, you can pretty much do whatever you want.”
Wyatt also has campaigned in New Hampshire and is on a cross-country road trip. He plans to stop in Missouri, though he doesn’t know where.
Wyatt said this election is a warm-up for 2008. He said elimination of some primaries has hindered him, and he blames the Republican Party.
“The only thing I want to make sure they know is that I’m not going away,” Wyatt said. “I do feel like I’ve been denied the opportunity to really run.”