Mainstream media coverage of the presidential election has focused almost entirely on President Obama and Mitt Romney, the only two candidates who polls suggest have a legitimate chance of victory in November. But among the 415 people who have filed statements of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission are a handful of lesser-known candidates who are fighting hard to make their case to the American people.
Four of those candidates will face off next Tuesday in a Larry King-moderated debate hosted by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation, which describes itself as dedicated to creating "a climate where all voices are heard regardless of political party or persuasion."
Johnson, who served two terms as the Republican governor of New Mexico, wants to cut government spending across the board by 43 percent in order to balance the budget, including a 43 percent cut to the military budget. He would make massive cuts to Medicaid and Medicare and either raise the Social Security retirement age or institute means testing. Johnson would not raise taxes, though he would replace the tax code with the national sales tax known as the "FairTax."
Johnson argues that the Republican Party needs to stop focusing on social issues, and advocates for what he calls a "socially accepting" government - one that would legalize and regulate marijuana and allow same-sex couples to have the same federal rights as straight couples. He opposes gun control laws, supports "school choice" through the states, supports abortion rights, wants to have Congress audit the Federal Reserve, and would lower the drinking age to 18 years old.
Johnson is on the ballot in 48 states, and Republicans have expressed concern his presence could end up costing Romney electoral votes - which is why they blocked him from the Michigan ballot for filing his paperwork three minutes after the deadline. (They also tried and failed to keep him off the ballot in Pennsylvania, and a Public Policy Polling survey out of Colorado found Johnson with 4 percent support.) Last year, Johnson sought the Republican presidential nomination before leaving the party after being excluded from most of the primary debates. He had been seen as a potential standard bearer in the general election for supporters of Libertarian-leaning Texas Rep. Ron Paul (a former Libertarian presidential candidate himself), but Paul has declined to endorse him. "I think he's between a rock and a hard place with his son Rand, and I don't expect an endorsement," Johnson told CBSNews.com last week.
Stein, a physician who twice ran for Massachusetts governor, advocates a "Green New Deal" that she says "will move rapidly to get our country off of fossil fuel addiction and to open up a new economy powered by 100% renewable wind, solar, bio and geothermal energy." To do so, she would provide grants and low-interest loans to grow green businesses, increase research funding for green energy and promote green transportation, including mass transit and bicycling.
Stein says she would create 25 million jobs through a "nationally funded, but locally controlled direct employment initiative," create a single-payer Medicare-for-all health care system, provide free college education and forgive student loans, halt all foreclosures and evictions, nationalize utilities, and reform the tax system so that the tax burden is "distributed in proportion to ability to pay." She would pass "real financial reform" that would end taxpayer-funded bailouts, restore the Glass-Steagall act, and break up "too-big-too-fail" banks. Stein would also institute mandatory public financing for elections, replace "winner take all" elections with proportional representation, replace the Electoral College with direct presidential elections, and reduce military spending by 50 percent.
Stein, who defeated comedian Rosanne Barr for the Green Party nomination, was arrested with running mate Cheri Honkala earlier this week protesting her exclusion from the second presidential debate. "I am basically in this to ensure that everyday people have a voice in this election and a choice at the polls that's not bought and paid for by Wall Street," she told CNN Wednesday. You can read a CBSNews.com interview with Stein here.
In April, consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader told CBSNews.com he is backing former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson for president, saying Anderson represents an alternative to the "increasingly corporate indentured Democrat and Republican parties." A former Democrat, lawyer and self-described champion of "social, legal, economic, and environmental justice," Anderson wants to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10 per hour, supports same-sex marriage and abortion rights, opposes U.S. "wars of aggression," and wants a Constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision. He would raise taxes on the wealthy and cut military spending, and he opposes the death penalty, fracking and the "war on drugs." Anderson has limited campaign contributions to $100 to keep from becoming indebted to his donors.
"If the people in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya can organize together, utilizing the democratizing tools of social media, to overthrow their nation's dictators, so too can the people of the United States organize together and overthrow the dictatorship of corrupt money that continues to deprive us of leadership on climate change, energy independence, universal health care, marriage equality, compassionate and rational immigration reform, and integrity in our political system," he wrote last year.
Unlike Johnson and Stein, Anderson is not on the ballot in enough states to make it mathematically possible that he win the presidency. He sought to have former President George W. Bush impeached in 2008 for use of "unbridled, dictatorial power," arguing that the president had presided over "felonious warrantless wiretapping, torture and kidnappings" and misled the nation into the Iraq war. Anderson has been critical of Mr. Obama for not prosecuting the former president and argued that "President Obama has betrayed us in almost every single way from being a candidate to being the President of the United States."
Goode, a Democrat-turned-Republican former six-term Congressman from Virginia who says he would like to personally see Mr. Obama's original birth certificate, is known primarily as an immigration hardliner: He argues for a fence along the Southern border, says "we must end the anchor baby situation," and argues that "[w]e need to utilize troops, fences, and other measures to stop the invasion from Mexico." He says he would put a near-moratorium on green cards until the unemployment rate drops below 5 percent, wants English as the official language of the United States, and calls the Arizona immigration law a model for the nation.
If elected, Goode says he would slash spending in "nearly every department and agency" and balance the federal budget immediately. He would increase offshore oil drilling, institute a modified "FairTax" to replace the current tax code, end "Obamacare," cut military spending and support term limits in Congress. Goode opposes same-sex marriage, gun control and abortion rights and supports Social Security and Medicare in their current form.
Despite Republican efforts to stop him, Goode qualified for the presidential ballot in his home state of Virginia, where he is polling around two percent. (He is also on the ballot in 28 other states.) With the race between Mr. Obama and Romney in Virginia very tight, Republicans worry that Goode's presence could cost them the state. Newspaper editor Marvin Hamlett told CBSNews.com that rural voters in Virginia are drawn to Goode's "southern hospitality." Goode offers no apologies about his run, arguing that his supporters include "a lot of disgruntled Democrats that don't like Obama -- old-line Democrats, some of them even conservative."