ABC News’ Devin Dwyer (@devindwyer) reports:
While his big-name competitors jockeyed for the spotlight in Iowa last week, Republican presidential candidate Charles Elson “Buddy” Roemer, III, laid claim to New Hampshire, ribbing his peers at events across the state and banking his political future on voters who “live free or die.”
“It's the first vote. Iowa is a caucus, kind of manipulated,” Roemer, the 67-year-old former Louisiana governor told “Top Line.” “You could vote in the poll there Saturday, [but] it costs you $35 to vote. You know, we made that against the law in America.”
“You don't have to pay a poll tax to vote. New Hampshire still lives free or dies,” he said. “It's where this race will be decided.”
Roemer, who has eschewed the role of big money in campaigns and accepts only $100 or less, says his message resonates with voters in the Granite State, where he has spent the past 36 days blasting his Republican peers for running for office awash in cash.
“I challenge them: No PACs, no ‘super’ PACs. Set your limit at whatever you want to, but everything fully disclosed,” he said in a criticism that echoes that leveled by top Democrats and the Obama campaign. “No hidden deals. Come on, guys. Come on, ladies. We can turn this country around."
Roemer appeared to be directing his criticism at front-runner Mitt Romney, who has raised more money than any other candidate, while accepting donations from registered lobbyists, and is backed by super PAC “Restore Our Future,” run by Romney’s friends. Romney and all the Republican presidential candidates have refused to voluntarily disclose the names of their top fundraisers, or bundlers.
“I'm the only person running who has fought toe-to-toe with corruption in his great state of Louisiana, and I know the power of special interest money, and I think the reason that Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul have done so well is because they get their funds generally from average people,” Romer said. “However, they both have formed special PACs, deliberately hidden from view without knowing who the donors are. They both take PAC money, so they're better than the other candidates, but they're not where they need to be.”
“This nation faces great challenges,” he said, “and a president needs to be free to lead.”