The Third Democrat in the Race

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Jim Cole / AP

Democratic presidential hopeful and former Senator Mike Gravel

As Ohio, Texas, Vermont and Rhode Island primary voters go to the polls on Tuesday, there are still three democrats running for President, and one of them isn't at all interested in getting votes. Mike Gravel, that old guy who used to be on the end in the Democratic debates, just wants some attention. For his idea. Really.

That idea is a plan to save the country called the National Initiative, which involves passing a constitutional amendment that would move the U.S. from a representative democracy to a direct democracy by having all laws voted on in federal ballot initiatives. This may or may not be what he believes. Either way, I've said it better than he has.

The 77-year-old former Alaska Senator, who put the Pentagon Papers into the public record in 1971, is just thrilled that his candidacy has given his idea so much attention — and by "so much," he means any at all. Just being a big party candidate and getting in the debates imparts a certain amount of fame. At the National Latino Congreso in L.A. back in October, he got to speak to 200 people right before the mayor, since they invited all the candidates and only he and Dennis Kucinich showed up — and Kucinich was late. "The day I filed for office I got more attention on the initiative than I had in 15 years," Gravel told me. "I was getting off a plane and Jennifer Lopez was getting her bags — I didn't recognize her, someone told me — and no one came up to her, but three people came up and pumped my hand."

In fact, Gravel fears he's such a threat to the military industry complex that he wants to dismantle that his campaign headquarters in Virginia has no sign and is on the third floor of a building. He also travels with a bodyguard, Eli Israel, who emailed him from his station in Iraq and, Gravel says, was thrown in the brig for refusing to continue fighting until the Gravel campaign got him a lawyer. Israel usually makes up the entirety of his entourage. "You can pay someone $5,000 to get them rubbed out in South San Francisco," Gravel explains.

In recent weeks, Gravel has been making the rounds of colleges, talking up his big idea for direct democracy. At a meeting with the Harvard Democrats late last week, he insisted he was in the race all the way to November and told his audience that he had more charisma than Obama.

"If I'm President, I'll only serve four years and I'll spend them going around the country bullying people to become lawmakers," Gravel recently told students at Yale University. "And if they don't, I will resign, because if they don't care enough to become lawmakers and don't vote to empower themselves, then I don't care enough to be their leader."

The ex-Alaska Senator's campaign got a blip of national attention over a surreal campaign YouTube video in which he stares at the camera, throws a rock in the water and walks away. "Two young teachers said I'd like to shoot a video. I said, 'What do they want me to do?' They said, 'Throw a rock in the water.' I said, 'Great. I'll give them an hour.' So I look in the camera for a full minute and all I can think is I look dumb as s--t," Gravel says.

Yes, but that beats not being looked at.