Gary Nolan, as you probably don’t know, will likely be the Libertarian candidate for president. Assuming “Ten Commandments Judge” Roy Moore doesn’t jump into the race, Michael Peroutka, who you’ve likely never heard of, is expected to represent the Constitution Party. The only Green Party candidate most people are aware of is Ralph Nader, and he’s not even a Green anymore. For most of the media, the race for the presidency is a two-candidate game, with that pesky Nader fellow demanding an occasional acknowledgement. These other guys, it seems, aren’t worth even a cursory mention.

That’s somewhat understandable, considering the dominance of the two-party system in American politics. But here’s the thing: some of these so-called fringe candidates aren’t so easy to dismiss. The Libertarian candidate, Harry Browne, got 384,000 votes in 2000 — not nearly enough to make him a viable candidate, but certainly worth thinking about, particularly in a close election. Doubts about Bush on the right suggest that Moore or Peroutka has a chance to make a real impact among social conservatives. And the Greens have a grassroots base similar to that on which Howard Dean rode to prominence.

It’s not like these candidates are hard to get ahold of: At the Conservative Political Action Conference this year, Nolan supporters were giving members of the press the candidate’s cell phone number. So why so little coverage? Campaign Desk suspects part of the reason is bicoastal bias: Many hail from, and draw their support from, well, from fly-over country.

Nolan, for example, who is a former syndicated radio personality, has been getting plenty of earned media on AM talk stations in the heartland, and the Constitution Party is strongest in the South, alien territory to many mainstream reporters.

Which is why the Baltimore City Paper’s excellent profile of Peroutka this week was such a welcome surprise: Not only did it give an in-depth portrait of the potential candidate, it reminded readers drowning in Bush/Kerry coverage that there were more than two horses in the field.

Now, if only people would start paying attention to this guy.

Yeah, we’re kidding.

Brian Montopoli

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Brian Montopoli is a writer at CJR Daily.