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Cox from the Land of Lincoln

February 27, 2007

In today’s Political Diary:

hpc-larger.jpgHere’s a Republican candidate for president you’ve probably never heard of: John Cox of Illinois. Mr. Cox is a self-made millionaire businessman and former head of the Cook County Republicans who’s been stumping in New Hampshire and Iowa trying to capitalize on the disaffection that voters feel toward the big three: Messrs. Giuliani, Romney and McCain.

Mr. Cox stopped by our offices this week and I must say he has a good story to tell. He’s trying to run a Steve Forbes-style renegade campaign and is promoting the Forbes constellation of issues. These include health savings accounts, term limits, private Social Security accounts, free trade, pro-life and government spending control. He’s even to the right of the flat tax-loving Mr. Forbes on tax reform: He wants to abolish the IRS income tax system. “It’s my No. 1 issue, by far,” he says of his travels through the hinterlands of Iowa and New Hampshire.

It would be easy to write Mr. Cox off as a political non-entity except that he has attracted committee chairs in 30 states and has 130 volunteer county chairmen in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. In New Hampshire, he even has Pat Buchanan’s old office space. And he’s already spent close to $1 million, with more money to pump in — though he quickly adds: “I don’t have the dollars to kick in that Forbes had.”

“The Republican primary voters in these early primary states are despondent that there’s no real conservative in the top tier of candidates,” he says. On that issue, I suspect he’s on the mark, and don’t be surprised if a conservative emerges from the second tier of candidates to take on the big boys. That’s likely to be Newt Gingrich or perhaps Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, but you may also start hearing the name John Cox a lot more in the months ahead.

— Stephen Moore

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