03:34 - Source: CNN
Someone at this debate will be president...not

Story highlights

There are plenty of presidential candidates nobody has heard of

They just gathered in New Hampshire

Manchester, New Hampshire CNN —  

Crammed onto a small stage at a college in New Hampshire, the presidential candidates gathered for their moment in the spotlight, broadcast to the nation on C-SPAN.

There were Democrats like Henry Hewes, who’s running on an anti-abortion agenda, libertarian-esque Mark Stewart, a self-described “better feminist than Hillary Clinton,” union activist Raymond Michael Moroz, and William McGaughey, who said he “decided to run as a Democrat partly on the issue of dignity for white people.”

“I’m also for a shorter work week,” McGaughey said.

Nearly 30 presidential candidates you’ve never heard of and who won’t be president anytime soon gathered for a public forum here Tuesday, fulfilling a long-held tradition in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

Every four years, these largely unknown presidential candidates flock to New Hampshire, where $1,000 buys you a spot on the primary ballot. These “lesser-knowns,” as they are affectionately called, can thrive here because of the state’s small size and the heavy population of national media that descend to cover the presidential election.

This year, including the mainstream candidates who appear on nationally televised debates, 58 people will be on the ballot in New Hampshire. Most never get a chance to broadcast their campaign message.

But for a few hours, huddled before a small audience at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, the group of candidates – all men this year – had their say in front of the TV cameras.

The Republican side included Andy Martin, who helped propel the “birther movement” which claimed – erroneously – that President Barack Obama was ineligible to be president. Martin, by the way, is hosting a forum in Washington to investigate fellow Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s eligibility.

Tim Cook, a candidate from North Carolina, bemoaned the fact that not all candidates for president are included in most national polls.

“Someone is cherry-picking the candidates for voters, and that’s un-American,” Cook said, adding that he had done his own poll on Twitter, and found that he would have beaten Hillary Clinton.

Not everyone lesser-known candidate is welcome. Conspicuously absent from the forum this year was a reliable mainstay of New Hampshire politics, presidential candidate and performance artist Vermin Supreme, who runs each cycle on the promise of providing free ponies for all Americans.

At the last lesser-known candidate debate in 2011, he stood up and poured glitter over the head of one of his competitors in order to, in his words, “make him gay.”

Supreme was barred from the forum this year for “property damage” and relegated to a zone surrounded by police tape outside the debate hall, where he stood with two toy ponies, a campaign sign painted onto a boogie board and a giant boot on his head.

While many of the candidates conceded that they knew they had less than an outside chance of ever residing in the White House, the forum offered a chance for these contenders – in a campaign environment that makes it nearly impossible for the average person to realistically have hope of winning – to get their message out.

“New Hampshire really plays a critical role in allowing lesser-known candidates to express their views, said Jon Adams, a Democrat. “There’s no reason at all that any one or two candidates that are at the table right now couldn’t jump into the top tier and become a top candidate.”

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Henry Hewes’ name.