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As Michigan voters leave the polls today, Fred Karger is hoping all the effort he's poured into the state will pay off.
Karger, who is gay and a Republican political strategist by trade, has spent three of the last four weeks campaigning for president in the state. He hired a state director, Todd Heywood, to oversee staff there. Plus the campaign bought two commercials that have run on CNN, MSNBC, HGTV, Lifetime, CNBC, and other channels. His spending is by no means at Mitt Romney levels (the ads cost about $10,000 from creation to placement), but it's a big effort for Karger's little campaign that could.
Karger's previous biggest stand came in New Hampshire, where he got 485 votes and noted that he'd beaten Rep. Michele Bachmann, who had dropped out of the race. Campaign staffers are looking to best that number in Michigan, and they probably won't know if it's happened until official results come in much later in the night than the projections supplied by cable networks. Still, as results come in tonight, Karger and his campaign team will be waiting at a pizza place in Old Town Lansing.
He's particularly targeting the eighth congressional district, where the celebration is located as his best chance, for winning a delegate. But his campaign points out the "big uphill battle" against four well-funded candidates, many of whom have been in 20 nationally televised debates -- all of which Karger has been excluded from.
There are small signs of progress. Michigan became the first state where an LGBT organization, in this case Equality Michigan PAC, has endorsed him.
"Michigan is a more of a moderate state," Karger said, explaining his campaign's focus there. Karger bypassed South Carolina entirely, for example. And he's not on the ballot in every state.
"The economy and jobs are far more of a concern in Michigan," he said, comparing Michigan and New Hampshire. "The state has been severely impacted by the recession and near-collapse of the auto industry. The new governor and legislature have rolled back some LGBT equality."
Karger campaign officials says they are appealing to LGBT voters all over the state. The state's open primary rules mean anyone can show up and vote on the Republican ballot. So Karger isn't shy about asking Obama voters for their support in the GOP primary. In New Hampshire he asked voters to pick him as a protest vote about the direction of the party.
"Like New Hampshire, the message to all voters is vote for Fred to send the Republican Party a 'moderate message,'" said Rina Shah, the campaign's communications director.
Watch Karger's two commercials below.