Among the notable presidential hopefuls in the crowd of more than 400 who formally have filed with the U.S. Federal Election Commission:
-- Jimmy McMillan, from Brooklyn, N.Y., self-proclaimed standard-bearer of the Rent Is Just 2 Damn High Party, and his running mate, Vermin Supreme, whose signature look is a boot on his head;
-- Merlin Miller of Las Vegas, filmmaker and candidate of the white-nationalist American Third Position Party, notable for having a 20-minute sit-down with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran in September;
Miller's running mate is Virginia Abernethy, a retired Vanderbilt University professor of anthropology and psychiatry with a doctorate from Harvard, who describes herself as an "ethnic separatist";
-- Herman Lee Goodman, from Delray Beach, Fla., who proposes to give $1 million to every American who passes a background check, and says he has 20 years work experience and a checking account;
-- And Lowell Jackson Fellure of Hurricane, W.Va., candidate of the Prohibition Party, who says his platform is based on the 1611 King James Bible, which he contends explicitly forbids consumption of alcohol.
Anyone can file with the Federal Election Commission to run for president, no matter how offbeat the candidate may be. The filing entitles contenders to raise money, but does not mean their names will ever make it to a ballot, a process controlled by the states that usually requires petitions and other steps.
Instead, this quadrennial parade of wanna-be presidents serves mainly as an outlet for the odd and publicity for assorted pet causes.
For some, it's a presidential-sounding or otherwise lofty name that makes them stand out. For instance:
-- Savannah Jewel McCumber Bush and Tanner Cline McCumber Bush from Lake Tahoe, Calif., who assert they're the legal daughter and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, but in hiding from terrorists;
-- Larry Robert Ford, from Fort Walton Beach, Fla.;
-- Rutherford Bert Hayes, from Pea Ridge, Ark.;
-- Jefferson Howard Taft Davis, from Saint Helen, Mich.;
-- George Washington Williams, from Youngstown, Ohio;
-- President Emperor Caesar, from Tampa, Fla.;
-- HRM Caesar St. Augustine De Buonaparte Emperor of the United States of Turtle Island, from Malibu Calif.;
-- And, for the youth vote, Santa Claus, from Incline Village, Nev.
It's not just presidential candidates who are engaging in the unusual and amusing this election season.
Barry Hinckley, GOP candidate for U.S. Senate from Rhode Island, first scored points when he plopped his son, Hudson, into an ad criticizing Obama economics titled "Economics for Five-Year-Olds." But when asked by an interviewer later if he really cared about the national debt, the tyke candidly replied "Um, no."
In Georgia, conservative GOP Rep. Paul Broun, has no Democratic opponent. But after Broun denounced evolution as "a lie straight from the pit of hell" he picked up a write-in foe -- Charles Darwin.
An Atlanta talk show host and some scientists hope protest votes for the Origin of Species author will signal that Broun, a doctor and member of the House Committee on Science and Technology, is out of step with his district, centered on Athens, home of the University of Georgia.
In Maine, Republicans put out a mailer showing Democratic state Senate challenger Colleen Lachowicz with green skin, fangs and pointy ears. Not exactly a smear job, though. They're showing her as the alter-ego character -- an "orc assassination rogue" -- she often plays in the online game "World of Warcraft."
Lachowicz admits she's whiled away some hours playing the game, but says the character doesn't reflect her professional or political life. The social worker says lately she's been playing "Angry Birds."
In Florida's Collier County, where Republicans outnumber Democrats by better than 2 to 1, a Democratic candidate for county commissioner says he won't heed calls to end his race. He's running as John "Robinhood" Lundin, and among his issues are opening a vegetable theme park in the farming community of Immokalee on the edge of the Everglades and alleging that his car was stolen by political foes and then the county sheriff's office.
Finally, there's at least one novelty candidate likely to enliven next year's Virginia gubernatorial race -- Tareq Salahi -- a wine grower and reality TV celebrity most famous for slipping uninvited into a White House state dinner in 2009 with his then-wife, Michelle. Salahi's main opponent in the long-shot endeavor to win the GOP primary is the state's current conservative attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli.
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