ABC News’ Rick Klein ( @rickklein ) reports:
Fred Karger has launched his long-shot Republican presidential bid with a unique distinction: He claims to be the first openly gay man to seek the presidency.
On ABC News’ “Top Line” today, Karger told us about his challenges in “trying to change the Republican party to the Republican Party I grew up with.”
“The Republican Party, you know, and the party platform is just despicable. It’s 27 pages of trying to drive people away,” said Karger, who worked on Republican presidential campaigns for much of his career before dedicating himself to activism for gay rights.
Karger said he’s gotten a warm welcome to the presidential field by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and other party officials. But he acknowledged some “bumps in the road,” such as Iowa GOP National Committeeman Steve Scheffler’s vow to “work overtime to help ensure that your political aspirations are aborted right here in Iowa.”
“The parties and the state parties have been very welcoming to me as the first openly gay candidate,” he said. “I think that it’s important that it be -- that that barrier be broken by a Republican, because this is the Republican Party of old.”
Karger cited the party’s history, including Abraham Lincoln’s freeing of the slaves, and Theodore Roosevelt’s welcoming of African-Americans into his White House.
On the subject of history, Karger criticized his fellow presidential candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann, for saying that John Quincy Adams’ opposition to slavery qualifies him as a Founding Father who worked “tirelessly” to eliminate slavery. (The nation’s sixth president was just shy of his 9th birthday on July 4, 1776.)
“The compromise was counting black slaves in the South as three-fifths of a person. Well, as a gay American I sometimes feel like that too,” Karger said. “We need to correct this, and we need to correct the facts. And I hope Michele Bachmann will be doing her homework. And you know, she's kind of a phenomenon, but I look forward to debating her and some of the others and talking about real issues.”
And while he’s a candidate himself, Karger said he’s still not thrilled with the presidential field.
“I'm like a lot of the American public – 70 percent of Republicans are not happy with the current field, and I guess that includes me,” he said.
Watch the full interview with Fred Karger HERE.
We also featured Jonathan Karl’s interview with Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who had a stark warning for Republican who favor a higher debt limit, and who didn’t quite rule out a run for the presidency himself.
Watch the segment with Sen. Jim DeMint HERE.