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Candidate could hurt Romney in Virginia

– “Climb in; brush that junk off the seat,” presidential candidate Virgil Goode commands, sliding into his mobile man cave.

Fast-food wrappers and empty bottles are strewn on his car’s floor mats. “Goode for President” pamphlets, Goode pencils and Goode campaign buttons lie amid boxes of campaign literature covering the back seat.

He is alone today, like many days. He is his own driver, strategist, scheduler, press man. He appears to be the portrait of a candidate going nowhere.

Except he might matter hugely in this race. Today, he is in Virginia, a battleground state where polls say Barack Obama narrowly leads Mitt Romney.

Here, Goode, a proud conservative, a former six-term Virginia congressman and now the Constitution Party’s presidential nominee, stands at a mere 2 percent in polls. But that 2 percent worries Republicans, who see Goode’s scant support as carrying the potential to deprive Mitt Romney of Virginia’s closely contested 13 electoral votes and perhaps the election.

Privately, some Republicans snipe that Goode, 65, who is already on the ballot in two dozen states – including Indiana – is hungry for attention after losing his congressional seat in 2008, and that he wants nothing more now than to be a high-profile spoiler who ruins Romney’s chances. Several students challenged him during his appearance at E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg.

“Do you know you could take votes away from Mitt Romney and single-handedly let Barack Obama win the election?” demanded Mitchell Swann, the 17-year-old head of the high school’s Young Republicans.

“The difference between Obama and Romney is the difference between Tweedledum and Tweedledee,” Goode told the students.

Swann looks genuinely confounded. “I mean, he can’t win. Why is he doing this?”