Beam Me Up, Denny

UPDATE 1.26.08: Hi everyone. This morning, I suddenly remembered that I'd actually had a conversation with the Congressman Kucinich, so I decided to post an addendum. Can't believe I forgot. When other candidates simply sent press releases, Kucinich called me personally. Read about it here.

And then there were three.

In an interviewyesterday with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich revealed plans to "transition out" of the Democratic presidential race, leaving Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and the rest of America to continue ignoring his existence.

Sure, Kucinich's unabashedly liberal positions--single-payer health care; immediate withdrawal from NAFTA; a cabinet-level Department of Peace; "fostering a world of international cooperation"--never earned him more than a few points in national surveys. (His unabashedly crazy belief in UFOs probably didn't help.) Yes, Kucinich was reduced in recent weeks to suing NBC (unsuccessfully) for excluding him from debates, launching a recount effortto uncover (non-existent) anti-Kucinich shenanigans* in New Hampshire and filing a (failed) appeal to stay on the ballot in Texas--all of which inevitably distracted the candidate from winning over the thousands upon thousands of voters required to rise from one to two percent in the polls. And it's possible that Kucinich typed "dennis kucinich" into Google Suggestand discovered that more people are searching for "kucinich wife" (1.5 million results) than "kucinich for president" (440,000). It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man, in possession of eyes, must be in want of a stunning British redhead who towers over him and has a pierced tongue (66,000 results). It's tough to compete.

But the truth is probably more pedestrian. Kucinich, who easily won a sixth congressional term in 2004, is now facing four challengers back in Cleveland--and each of them is using his quixotic presidential campaign (and the time it takes away from representing his constituents) as ammunition. Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman, Kucinich's main rival, snuck into the congressman's Lakewood office Jan. 3 "with a camera-toting campaign worker to drop off a 'missing' poster mocking Kucinich's presidential travels," according to the Plain Dealer; he's also criticized Kucinich's Hollywood donors (Michael Moore is a fan). Candidate Barbara Ferris went one step further, citing Kucinich's failure to win the Democratic nod as evidence of his inadequacy. "He was unable to achieve anything running for president; he was unable to achieve in 11 years in Congress," she says. Seems like ignoring your district, hobnobbing with Hollywood and losing a lot of primaries isn't the best reelection strategy--and even someone who believes in little green men is practical enough to see that.

* UPDATE: Actually, Kucinich demanded a recount "because of what he says are unexplained disparities between hand-counted ballots and machine-counted ballots and rumors online of counting errors." It was a effort to ensure "public confidence in the integrity of the election process and the election machinery," not to uncover "anti-Kucinich shenanigans." The source I consulted when writing the article was misleading, and I apologize for the error. Thanks to everyone who pointed out the mistake.