When Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino take the stage at Hofstra University for their first and only debate tonight, they will be joined not by one or two, but by five other gubernatorial hopefuls. Among them, perennial candidate for any and every elective office in the land Jimmy McMillan of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party. The debate represents the widely ignored McMillan’s best chance to make an impression on voters, but how will he stand out among such a crowd?
Apparently, McMillan seems to be taking a three-pronged approach. Prong one: dropping the name of President Obama whenever possible. “His name will be coming out of my mouth a million times,” McMillan tells us. Prong two: Regardless of what question is asked of him, make the answer about rent — specifically, how it’s too damn high. Question about gay rights? “Turn it towards rent,” he says. Any question about anything? “Turn it towards rent.” Because once you solve rent, McMillan believes, you solve unemployment and the economy. Finally, prong three: Don’t scrimp on the badness.
“You got one guy that appears to be bad, but it’s time to let him know who’s the baddest person in the arena tonight. He gonna need that bad. Paladino might start shaking when I sit down. I asked them to have the paramedics standing by … I’m going to be the baddest man onstage. When I look out and see the paramedics, I’m gonna nod my head, have your medication standing by, because they’re gonna need it. You’re gonna hear [the other candidates] stutter, they’re gonna be like, ‘Oh no, don’t let me go after him! Let me go before McMillan!’”
With McMillan as confident and cocky as Muhammad Ali before a championship fight, we asked him what the headlines in tomorrow’s papers will say. “You’re going to see my picture,” he says, “and it’ll say, ’Wow!’”