WASHINGTON – When neighbors find out he is running for president of the United States, Michael A. Peroutka gets one of two reactions.
“Some stopped talking to me and some came to the house and put bumper stickers on their cars,” the Millersville lawyer said with a laugh.
But Peroutka, 51, is taking his message of “God, Family, Republic,” beyond the neighborhood. He has been traveling the country since January, angling to win the nomination of the Constitution Party when it convenes in June.
His platform is simple — Peroutka would adhere strictly to the Constitution if elected president — but sweeping.
“It’s the lack of fidelity to the Constitution that has caused problems over the last 40 to 50 years,” he said. “The ‘revolution’ has occurred. What my candidacy is is a counterrevolution.”
Peroutka vows to “rebuild the foundations” of American government that he said have been destroyed by the major political parties and activist judges.
To him, adhering to the Constitution means pulling American soldiers out of Iraq and pulling the United States out of organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank. It means banning abortion and federal funding for it, and opposing both gay marriage and the proposed constitutional amendment to ban it.
“As soon as you define it, the courts will refine it,” he said of the proposed amendment.
Wearing a Ten Commandments lapel pin and readily quoting John Adams, John Kennedy and Douglas MacArthur, Peroutka answered questions about his candidacy at a small luncheon Wednesday in Washington.
Born in Baltimore, he graduated from Loyola College and the University of Baltimore School of Law. He was working at the Department of Health and Human Services in the 1980s when he realized that his work was “unlawful” as it related to the Constitution and he decided to go into private practice.
Peroutka and his brother have been law partners for the past 18 years in Pasadena. In 2000, their firm started the Institute on the Constitution to educate people about the document and the founding of the United States, hoping those principles would “reclaim the Republic,” according to the group’s Web site.
While he grew up in a Democratic household, Peroutka became a Republican before becoming convinced they “were worse than Democrats.” He joined the Constitution Party nearly five years ago and, through the institute, met Howard Phillips, the party’s 2000 presidential nominee.
“We’re grateful for Michael,” said Phillips, who is now Peroutka’s campaign chairman. “He’s broadly knowledgeable and an honest man. We think he will do well.”
Others are not so sure. A statewide poll released Wednesday by Gonzales Marketing and Research did not even include Peroutka in a question about presidential candidates. In the poll last week of 825 registered voters, 48 percent supported Democratic Sen. John Kerry and 43 percent backed President Bush. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Peroutka “will do as the same as the Constitution candidate did four years ago, unless he has a lot of money,” said pollster Patrick Gonzales. “Those types of candidates get the same amount each time.”
In 2000, Philips got 98,000 votes nationwide, 919 in Maryland.
While Peroutka has been getting donations from around the country, he acknowledged he does not have “$200 million to spend” on the election. The campaign had $6,400 on hand at the end of February, according the campaign filings, which show that Peroutka has taken out three $20,000 loans to finance his race.
He is relying primarily on his Web site (peroutka2004.com) to reach voters, but expects the Constitution Party nominee will appear on more than 40 state ballots in November.
Despite his long-shot candidacy, Peroutka has been encouraged by meeting people with similar goals.
“I don’t believe in chance. I believe in God’s providence,” he said. “It’s not a question of odds against me. It’s a question of duty.”
If nothing else, he sees the campaign as an opportunity to teach people about the Constitution and its values.
“We want to educate the public whenever we get the chance,” Peroutka said. “Many people who do not understand the Constitution still know something is wrong, they just can’t connect the dots. People don’t have to vote for the lesser of two evils.”
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