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How many Republicans are now running for the GOP nomination? 10, 12?
Whitmore Lake — Thaddeus McCotter, a Livonia congressman, announced to a Michigan rock festival crowd Saturday he's seeking the Republican nomination for president, saying the future of the country is not big government but self government.
Joined on stage with his wife and two children (a third was at work — something, he said, all Americans should have the opportunity to do), McCotter laid out his principles of liberty, sovereignty, security and prosperity to a festival crowd of more than 400 people who were unsure about his presidential chances.
"While it is a hard road ahead, we will have better days and we will start now," McCotter said.
Much of crowd was here for an outdoor freedom festival sponsored by a local conservative radio station and not for him. But by the end of his 10-minute speech, the crowd clapped and cheered for the congressman, waving McCotter 2012 signs passed out earlier in the day.
With temps topping the 90s and the sky darkening, McCotter waved off supporters in the front row when they started chanting "Thad, Thad!"
"Remember: the storms are coming," said McCotter, who's known for deadpan humor.
Immediately after the speech, McCotter picked up his American flag themed guitar and jammed with the band for a song.
McCotter, a lawyer and author who is serving his fifth term in Congress, is considered a long shot in the GOP nomination. He faces serious challenges in fundraising and national name recognition, compared to challengers like Michigan native, Mitt Romney, and tea party darling Michele Bachmann.
But supporters say it will be his message of small government will resonate and his Michigan roots and manufacturing support will change the dialog in the campaign.
"Never underestimate Thaddeus," said his mom, Joan McCotter. Family described McCotter as a good kid, who cleaned toilets at his mom's small business growing up and who paved his own way from common roots.
A day after filing formal paperwork in Washington, McCotter made his public announcement at the WAAM (1600 AM) conservative talk radio festival that featured rock music, beer tent, chair massages and BBQ food. Attendees talked of wanting a candidate who would repeal President Barack Obama's health care law, lower taxes, limit government, protect gun ownership rights and support drilling in the U.S. for oil.
Already scheduled to speak here, McCotter said he chose the spot for the announcement because it's real people he has to convince — not a prearranged group of supporters.
Several in attendance said they didn't know much about McCotter. Others doubted whether he could win the nomination or even their votes.
"I don't even know who he is," said event volunteer Pat Lubomski, 54, from Ypsilanti, before McCotter's speech.
Wes Nakagiri, treasurer of RetakeOurGov, a tea party group in Hartland, said he doesn't see McCotter offering a compelling message.
"He's not my first choice… I'm leaning toward Michele Bachmann," he said before the speech.
Gary Knechtel, a WAAM listener, is not counting McCotter out. Since the presidential field is wide open, anybody has a shot, he said.
"I think he's a good candidate," Knechtel, 37, of Pittsfield said of McCotter. "He's a good conservative."
Wearing a blue shirt and black pants, McCotter spoke without notes and behind a music stand with a campaign sign taped in front. He railed on big government, Obama's health care reform, the myth of climate change and cap and trade. Prosperity comes from the private sector, not the public sector, he said. Ultimately, government must be restructured so it is citizen driven, he said.
"What we need in Washington is someone who knows the future is not big government ... it is self government," he said.
McCotter recently finished up a four-day tour in Iowa and will participate in the influential straw poll there. He plans to head to New Hampshire, home to the first in nation primary.
Asked how his debut announcement went, McCotter mused: "I'm just glad I didn't get electrocuted while playing the guitar."
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