Nov. 15, 2007 — -- Calling himself a "long-shot candidate," Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio., blasted his fellow Democratic presidential contenders during an interview with ABC News, arguing that his rivals have given in to health insurers and big pharmaceutical companies.
"I'm the one candidate who is running for president who has the ability to stand up to the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies -- the other candidates have already capitulated," Kucinich said on 'Politics Live' Thursday on ABC News Now -- ABC's digital news channel.
"These insurance companies have a grip on Washington and on the Democratic Party," he said, arguing that he is the only presidential candidate with a health care plan that is completely not-for-profit.
The Ohio congressman said he is optimistic about his chances after a New York Times/CBS poll released this week had Kucinich in fifth place in New Hampshire with 5 percent support, but only four percentage points behind former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.
"I know I'm a long-shot candidate," he said. "The fact that I went up to 5 percent in New Hampshire shows that I have to keep moving up. If I can get to third place, the race starts to change a little bit."
The poll had Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., first among Democratic likely primary voters at 37 percent support; Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., at 22 percent; Edwards at 9 percent; New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson at 6 percent; and Kucinich at 5 percent -- just squeaking past the poll's margin of error.
Kucinich beat out in the poll Sens. Joe Biden, D-Del., and Chris Dodd, D-Conn., who received 2 and 1 percent support, respectively.
The candidate accused the Iowa state Democratic Party of throwing support behind only the leading Democratic contenders.
"Iowa's been kind of a rigged game. The Iowa state Democratic Party wants to determine who the next president's going to be," he said.
Kucinich demurred when asked whether he thought Clinton would be electable in a general election.
"I'm not running for president against Hillary Clinton," he said. "I'm running for president so the people of this country can have jobs, health care, housing, food on the table, clothes on their kids' backs, a decent education, that's what I'm about."
Kucinich did say, however, that Clinton-era trade policies in the 1990s "took America in the wrong direction."
"NAFTA lost this country millions of jobs," he said. "I've stood behind closed plant gates where there's grass growing in parking lots where they used to make cars and steel and washing machines and bicycles."
Citing his success in informal online polls that ask people to match their key issues with presidential candidates, Kucinich said his public support is rising because he is the only candidate who voted against the war. He's also proposing a Cabinet-level Department of Peace, as he did during his first White House bid in 2004.
"I'm the real Democrat in the race, and so it's just a matter of time for that awareness to catch on," he said. "Will it be in time for me to win some primaries? Well, that remains to be seen."
Kucinich will appear onstage Thursday night with his 2008 rivals for a Democratic debate in Las Vegas.
He said when he's called upon he will talk about his anti-war message and his so-far failed effort in Congress to impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney over the Iraq War.
"I'm ready to talk about the need for peace, to reject a war against Iran, to challenge the administration and to talk about impeachment," he said. "I'm going to keep pushing that issue in the Congress because this is about protecting our Constitution."
The former Cleveland mayor said he has never forgotten the poverty he grew up in, and said he still lives in a house he bought in a working-class neighborhood of Cleveland in 1971 for $22,500.
"Look, I know that I'm a long shot, but so are a lot of Americans, and they're in a much more difficult position than I'm in because they're threatened with losing their jobs, their wages are stagnate, they don't have health care benefits, their retirement's in jeopardy or their home is in jeopardy," he said.
Kucinich, 61, credited his wife, Elizabeth, who is 30 years his junior, with making this campaign experience better than his failed bid in 2004.
"I've got a wife who is drawing her own crowd around the campaign circuit," he said. "It's made all the difference in my life. I'm one happy candidate!"
Kucinich said he is trailing in the polls because Americans like to back a winner, but that most Democrats agree with his views on the war, health care and the environment.
"What I stand for is central to the hopes and aspirations of the American people, and as they understand that, my support starts to grow."