For all the wisdom of the founders, there’s little mention in the Constitution of what today’s pundits cite as standard qualifications for the presidency of the United States. Nowhere does it reference military service, law degrees, experience in private equity firms, ownership of baseball teams, or B-movie stardom. It does, however, make explicit the rule that no one is eligible “who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years.” Having attained the age of 35 years, New Yorker Connor Ratliff is eligible to be president, and he’s running as a write-in candidate.
New York-based comedian Connor Ratliff is 35 years old, so he's running for president.
At a press conference Sunday morning in Battery Park, Ratliff, a member of the Upright Citizens Brigade House team The Stepfathers, spoke with reporters for over an hour as the Statue of Liberty stood calmly in the background.
“The founders didn’t just flip a bunch of pennies in the air, see 35 of them land on heads, and say, 35 is the age,” explained Ratliff. “Think of it as the recommended serving size. But instead, we’ve elected all these old people.
Though Ratliff’s campaign hinges on the 35 motif, he is in fact 36 now and will turn 37 in August. Critics point to this as a betrayal of his own platform. But he contends that the campaign has been honest from the beginning about his birthdays, and even so, he’s still the closest to 35 of any of the candidates. Incumbent president Barack Obama is 50, while his presumptive Republican opponent Mitt Romney is 65.
“You don’t see something that costs $36 and say it’s $40. No, you say it’s 35 with a little bit of tax. I don’t want to talk about taxes, but that’s what it is. 35 and change.” Ratliff then added that “35 and Change” would be a campaign slogan.
Ratliff’s presidential run began with an official announcement last August on The Chris Gethard Show, a variety program on the public access channel MNN. Since then, the campaign has hired a pollster, conducted focus groups, and fired the pollster. They’ve signed as a running mate Larry Hankin, 71, an actor known for his role as Mr. Heckles on the sitcom Friends.
“We tried for all the Friends: Ross, Chandler, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey. None of them responded,” said Ratliff. “But you take lemons and make lemonade. And even when you get really old lemons, there’s still a little juice left.”
The campaign is open to other big name supporters. “I know Sarah Jessica Parker is interested in throwing fundraising events, and any celebrities willing to endorse the campaign are welcome,” said Langan Kingsley, Ratliff’s press secretary and a fellow UCB member.
For all the effort so far, Ratliff has yet to go through the formality of registering his campaign with the FEC. “Formal?” Ratliff responded. “I’m wearing a suit, how much more formal do you want? Do you want me to come out here with a tuxedo and a top hat? I’m a working Joe.”
What informs Ratliff’s strategy is the reality that registering with the FEC, and officially getting his name on the ballot, would take resources he doesn’t have and energy he doesn’t want to waste. “You don’t want a president to show up exhausted. You want a president that’s well rested and ready to go. That’s my other slogan: ‘well rested and ready to go.’”
His lack of experience could be a hang-up for voters, but Ratliff contends that he has the same experience any president has had, except for incumbents and Grover Cleveland during his 1892 campaign: the experience of not being president. “I’m no Grover Cleveland,” he said.
Over the course of the press conference, the candidate veered away from questions regarding foreign policy. When asked his thoughts on the presidential elections in Egypt, Ratliff explained that he “didn’t pay attention to that stuff” before endorsing Brendan Fraser, star of the Mummy films, for the job.
On domestic issues, however, Ratliff appeared to have a thought-out strategy. For example, on immigration reform, he admitted that Mitt Romney made a good point in his interview on CBS’s Face the Nation when he said that Obama’s plan was just a short-term solution, and he was looking for a long-term solution to immigration reform. “I’m looking for long-term solutions to all the problems,” he explained. “One of my slogans is ‘permanent solutions for now problems.’”
And on a hot summer day in Battery Park, your correspondent couldn’t help but wonder what solution Ratliff might have for the city’s debate over soda cup size. “My recommended serving size is 35 ounces,” Ratliff said.