Unlike most other candidates braving cold air and pressing warm flesh in New Hampshire these days, Red Jahncke is in a race he can't win — even if he gets the most votes. The funny thing is, that doesn't bother him.
Jahncke is one of two people on the official Jan. 27 primary ballot as a Republican candidate for vice president of the United States.
Dick Cheney needn't worry, though — the vote isn't binding, and Jahncke doesn't seek office.
What he hopes, instead, is to spread a message.
"I am a walking, talking ballot initiative," Jahncke said in a phone interview from the campaign trail. "I am running on one issue … and that is to oppose and seek to change the administration's radical new unilateral foreign policy doctrine, and its first expression in Iraq."
"I'm running to seek a true internationalization of that effort at this point going forward," he said.
By all accounts New Hampshire is the only state in the country to offer a primary ballot for vice president. Under the rules, voters can write in any candidate they want from any party on the vice presidential ballot.
Bill Gardener, who works in the election division of the New Hampshire Department of State, says the vice presidential ballot dates to 1956, when some Republicans talked about removing Vice President Richard Nixon from the GOP ticket.
Nixon stayed on the ticket, and some credited his survival to his easy win in New Hampshire.
"It's just sort of stayed as a tradition in New Hampshire," Gardener said. "Usually it doesn't have much significance, but it's still there and some people think that maybe someday it might come in handy."
The way it comes in handy, says Jahncke, is that unlike casting a vote for a minor candidate for president (there are 37 presidential candidates in all, including 13 Republicans challenging George W. Bush), a vote for Jahncke does not take away from any other candidates' tally.
What's more, since Jahncke cannot win anything on primary day, voters need not worry about his character, his background, his competence or how he feels about any other issues but the war.
"It does not matter who Red Jahncke is," he said. "It merely matters that Red Jahncke has a ballot initiative in his name."
So who is Red Jahncke?
Redington Townsend Jahncke is 54, is married, has four children and has lived most of his life in Greenwich. He runs a financial consulting firm and, according to his listing in "Who's Who In Finance and Industry," holds a bachelor's degree and MBA from Harvard.
Two weeks before the primary, Jahncke said he planned to spend almost the whole month of January in New Hampshire. So far, his campaign has included a visit to a school, an appearance on a radio station and hand-shaking. Volunteers have canvassed and leafleted for him, and one has designed a Web site.
"When I have the opportunity to speak and address a crowd I get a very good reaction," he said. "The fact that I'm single issue and I have a crystal clear message makes it easy for people to make a decision and if they're in concert with what I advocate, they very quickly come on board as supporters."
Jahncke says many people he meets "want the U.N. in Iraq with a major leading role. "Without my candidacy, that feeling in New Hampshire will be splintered across several different candidates."
Jahncke said he paid $1,000 to get on the Republican ballot. He has raised contributions from individuals to cover all his campaign expenses.
The other candidate on the Republican ballot for vice president, Flora Bleckner of Hewlett, N.Y., hung up when a reporter called. Local press accounts indicate she is also an opponent of the Iraq war.
Jahncke will not say whether he agrees with Mr. Bush on other policy areas besides the war. The registrar of voters in Greenwich says Jahncke changed his affiliation from unaffiliated to Republican last November.
Jahncke makes no secret, however, of his opposition to the way the Bush administration went to war.
"With the introduction of this unilateralist doctrine, we have abandoned generation's worth of policy that has been the bedrock of our position internationally," Jahncke said. "We have lost legitimacy in doing so because, by definition, legitimacy is multilateral.
"A unilateralist may agree with himself but no one gains legitimacy by agreeing with himself."
Jahncke will find out in less than two weeks just how many New Hampshire voters agree with him.
His chief rival could be voter indifference: In 2000, only 30 percent of voters who cast ballots for president voted for a vice president.
And big-name candidates sometimes win more write-in votes than people, like Jahncke, who register for the VP ballot. In 1996, for example, Al Gore received 17,000 combined Democratic and Republican votes to lead the pack. Colin Powell was the choice of 6,700 New Hampshire voters.
But four years later, Staten Island, N.Y., resident William Bryk — an attorney and local newspaper columnist — won the veepstakes with 23,800 votes. It was Bryk's first win after races for district attorney, city council, the state legislature and Congress.
Elizabeth Dole gained 10,000 ballots — but that was only good enough for fifth place.
By Jarrett Murphy