Fred Karger, The Scroll’s unofficial “chosen” candidate in the Republican primaries (he is the first Jewish Republican to last this long into the GOP nominating contest; he has received more attention for being the first openly gay candidate), had a big day yesterday: in Puerto Rico’s primary, which was overwhelmingly won by frontrunner Mitt Romney, Karger took, as of 3 A.M. last night, 1,702 votes—more than Rep. Ron Paul. According to a press release, this is the first time Karger surpassed the votes of one of the four leading candidates; in Paul’s case, someone with 80 percent name identification who has raised $35 million. (Alterna-candidate Buddy Roemer also beat Paul, as well as Karger and even Newt Gingrich.)
Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins had reported that Karger spent more time on the U.S. territory than any other candidate and received significant local press attention.
“A lot of hard work and six days on the island,” were what were responsible for his showing, Karger said this morning in an interview with Tablet Magazine. “The morning after I arrived, I went over the Republican Party offices and there were four television cameras to greet me, major newspapers, radio. I was not expecting that. We had a press conference, a lot of coverage. We were very well received here, much different than in the states.” He noted that Puerto Rico’s LGBT community has little support, but he received a standing ovation when he was introduced at a friendly bar. “I think that translated into votes.”
Last time we spoke, Karger said his strategy was to stick around long enough for the race to come down to two people and then get access to a debate—he pointed to Shirley Chisholm, who managed to participate in a debate between Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern in June 1972, as his model. That plan, he said, is still on-track: “The prolonged race will help me on the debate front and also showing, just like yesterday, that there’s less competition. I am hopeful that as the race narrows further, presumably down to two people, that I will then get into a debate.”
Next on his schedule? California, whose June 5 primary he’s in; New York, for media interviews (he is not on the ballot for the upcoming primary); and Las Vegas, for a Republican Jewish Coalition leadership meeting. “Sheldon Adelson will set up a super PAC for me,” he joked.
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.