"As I started the campaign," Jones says, "I was told that I could never possibly win because of the mustache."
After all, it's been more than 100 years since America elected William Howard Taft to office, the last president to sport facial hair inside the White House.
But a clean shave isn't Jones' only obstacle. On a platform built around anti-Islamic rhetoric and Evangelical Christian extremism, 60-year-old Jones announced his bid for the presidency on October 26, 2011, with an amateurish news release.
You may remember Jones. In late 2010, he made international headlines when his infinitesimal church began evangelizing that "Islam is of the Devil." Then he threatened to burn several copies of the Qur'an on the ninth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, prompting worldwide revulsion. Even United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Jones' plan "unacceptable."
On the streets of Karachi, several hundred protesters shouted "Down with American dogs" and hung "Death to America" placards around the city in response to the Gainesville pastor. A similar scene also erupted in Kabul, where protesters burned Jones in effigy and called for his head.
"I think politically it didn't make me popular," Jones says. "[But] I don't think it was a mistake. It was a very clear message to the radical element of Islam."
His campaign headquarters is located in a quiet neighborhood about seven miles from the University of Florida's main campus in Gainesville at his church, Dove World Outreach Center.
"All men have equal rights," Jones says. "We believe in truth, justice, [and] morality. I call those normal human values, believing in civil rights and human rights... All of these things are basically void in Islam."
Jones doesn't have an agenda, unless you consider living by "certain foundational points" in the Christian Bible, like "God is the creator of mankind," an agenda. "If you call those Christian values, of course the answer would be yes.'' Terry Jones has a very fanciful agenda.
And just like the other candidates, he's asking for your vote, Florida.
Romney — 0, Obama — 0, Jones — 1.
Our road trip winds down on a cool-for-Florida fall evening at the 120-year-old Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando, "The City Beautiful." There are more runners tonight than usual circling the 23-acre lake — exercising really is so much enjoyable when the humidity's not suffocating.
Diana Rodriguez, a quirky 22-year-old architecture student from nearby Seminole State College with bottom-lip rings and oversized, clear, plastic-framed glasses, is voting for Barack Obama. "I like equal rights for everyone," she says, "and that's what he's advocating."
Not far away, Hector Miranda, a service-engineering manager at Disney, and Laura Long, a sales professional, are debating the candidates. "I'm going to vote for Obama," Miranda says, his face widening as an infectious smile naturally escapes him. "He acquired a mess. I don't give an A; I give him a C on his last four years — passing grade. He's done a lot."
Long shoots him a flirty glance of disapproval and quickly fires back. "I'm most definitely voting for [Mitt Romney]," she says. "Barack is a very charismatic gentleman; I can appreciate that. He's likable, and I'm not saying he hasn't done good things. But I believe in Mitt Romney."
As Romney and Obama make their final push for the Sunshine State's coveted 29 electoral votes, each campaign will try to obstreperously drown out the other party's message.
Pro-Obama ads outnumbered favorable Romney spots by a little more than 2,000 the week of October 15 to 21. Then the pro-Romney superPAC Restore Our Future kicked off a nearly $18 million multistate ad buy on October 23, including $4 million in Florida.
So how will Tuesday's vote end? Our unofficial, unscientific poll has Romney winning Central Florida and perhaps the nation in a landslide, 15 to 7. (Jones' Muslim-hating agenda drew a pathetic single vote.)
So maybe that tells you something. Then again, who in hell knows what is really gonna happen?