POWHATAN, Virginia — Virgil Goode will never be president of the United States, but that hasn't stopped him from running for the highest office vowing to immediately balance the budget and create millions of jobs.
The former six-term US congressman from Virginia is running for the tiny Constitution Party on a budget so meager he can afford only four staff members. But what he lacks in funds, Goode makes up for in conviction.
"I'm strong pro-life, strong pro-traditional marriage, for a balanced budget now -- not 10 years down the road -- and I'm for jobs in America for American citizens," said Goode, 66.
A wiry lawyer with wavy silver hair and a pleasant smile, Goode was at a strip mall in the small town of Powhatan on a recent evening shaking hands and chatting up potential voters.
"I hadn't heard of him. I haven't seen any of his TV ads," said Peter Boss, a Vietnam war veteran, after meeting Goode while dining with his wife Valerie at a local restaurant.
Boss liked Goode's stance on gun rights and against illegal immigration. "I don't mean to have hard feelings, but if others can come here legally, why can't they?" he asked.
Goode's proposals are blunt and simple: end automatic birthright citizenship; create jobs by halting legal and illegal immigration; and balance the budget by ending government subsidies and eliminating the departments of energy, education and commerce.
Goode also opposes Super PACs, the groups that can raise unlimited sums of money to support a candidate. He says his campaign accepts donations only up to $200.
He has no TV ads.
Elected to Congress as a Democrat in 1996, Goode split with the party after voting to impeach president Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He became a Republican in 2002, then lost his seat in 2008.
Goode briefly made headlines in 2006 when he criticized newly elected Congressman Keith Ellison, a Muslim, for using the the Koran in taking his oath of office. "I believe that the overwhelming majority of voters in my district would prefer the use of the Bible," Goode told Fox News at the time.
While campaigning at another restaurant in Powhatan road Goode ran into some resistance.
"I am against Obama. I will go with Romney and I hope that you don't upset it," a diner named Susanne told Goode when he approached her.
The woman, who declined to give her last name but said she was a small business owner, worries that Goode could cost Romney the election.
Democrats blamed the Green Party's Ralph Nader for taking away enough votes in Florida from Al Gore in the 2000 election to deny him a victory, resulting in a win by Republican George W. Bush. Some fear that Goode could play a similar role on November 6.
Two percent of Virginia voters support Goode's bid, according to a September Washington Post poll. More recent polls have focused exclusively on Romney and Obama, who are tied in the state.
Goode has a strong following in south-western Virginia but little support elsewhere, said Larry Sabato with the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
"Goode is a conservative and has strongly Republican views on hot button issues from abortion to immigration to debt, so most of his votes will be bled from the Romney column," said Sabato, who said he has known Goode since the early 1970s.
The Republicans tried to prevent Goode's name from appearing on the Virginia ballot. "The state Republican party charged us with multiple counts of fraud," said Danny Turner, one of Goode's four staff members. "We stuck by our guns."
The challenge was resolved, and Goode's name appears on the ballot in Virginia and in 23 other US states.
Also on the Virginia ballot: third-party candidates Gary Johnson, a Libertarian who wants to legalize marijuana, and Jill Stein with the leftist Green Party.
Mark Rozell, an analyst with George Mason University, has a scathing view of Goode's bid. "It is hard to get into his head and examine why he is making this futile, meaningless run for president," Rozell said.
In a tight race one state could decide the outcome of the 2012 presidential election, "and if that state turns out to be Virginia and is closely contested, Goode's presence on the ballot could play a spoiler role," Rozell stressed.
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