MANCHESTER, N.H. -- The debate calendar has included as many as 22 candidates in the 2016 cycle. But on Tuesday night, another 23 got their moment in the spotlight, debating each other at the “Lesser-Known Candidate Forum” at St. Anselm College in Manchester.
The debate, which was carried live by C-SPAN, has been in place since 1972, serving to highlight the dozens of fringe candidates that run alongside more well-known politicians. In New Hampshire alone, where it only takes a $1,000 and a few signatures to enter a party’s primary, the ballot will include 28 Democrats and 30 Republicans.
“I’m in it to win it,” he told ABC News. “We’ve got to assess where we are after New Hampshire. We have signs up all over. If we do well here, we’re going to push forward and see about getting on more debate stages.”
Other candidates, like Eric Elbot of Massachusetts, admitted they weren’t expecting to occupy the White House anytime soon, but hoped to raise a particular point that their better-known counterparts haven’t brought to the table.
“Thank you,” he said after a brief pause, eyeing the other 17 Democrats on stage. “My time is short.”
Besides the 22 candidates who have appeared in nationally televised debate, only one White House hopeful did not receive an invitation: Vermin Supreme, a performance artist known for wearing a boot on his head. Supreme was banned from the event four years ago, after dousing an opponent in glitter.
“It’s an opportunity for every person on the New Hampshire ballot to be able to participate in a debate,” Gardner said, calling it “the primary for the little guy.”
The opportunity wasn’t lost on Elbot, who wore a red, white and blue shirt under his blazer.
“Everybody at St. Anselm, when you come to see me [at the White House], you get to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom!” he proclaimed.
“Actually,” he admitted, “I’m not important in this at all. It’s the ideas that matter.”