Buchanan Looks For Gramm and Perot Backers
MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) _ Pat Buchanan, already nipping at Bob Dole’s heels, is pressing to pick up supporters of Phil Gramm’s failed presidential bid and those who formerly backed Ross Perot.
It’s a combination, coupled with his own zealot supporters, that Buchanan says can win him next week’s New Hampshire primary, the GOP nomination and the White House.
``This thing is on fire across America,″ Buchanan told hundreds of cheering supporters Tuesday night at a banquet hall in Concord, one day after he had scored his strong second-place showing in the Iowa caucuses.
``Phil Gramm said the winner of the Louisiana caucuses is going to be Mr. Conservative in 1996,″ Buchanan, the surprise winner of the Feb. 6 caucuses in Louisiana over Gramm, told the crowd. ``You know, as usual, Phil was right.″
Buchanan campaigned in New Hampshire this morning and wasted no time attacking leading opponent Bob Dole, calling the Senate majority leader a ``big tax man who hasn’t balanced a budget in his last 25 years in Congress.″
Buchanan, in an interview with WCQL in Portsmouth, also set his sights on homosexuals, saying: ``If someone declared that I’m an out-of-the-closet homosexual and here is my lover and I want to be in Pat Buchanan’s Cabinet, I’d have to tell them you’re not going to be in Pat Buchanan’s Cabinet. This is about having people in here who share the views and values of Pat Buchanan or at least pay homage to those views and values.″
As if to cement his credentials as the true conservative in the race, and the friend of blue-collar America, Buchanan used an earlier news conference to blast Republicans and Democrats for trade agreements that he said had exported American jobs to Mexico.
``I used to be a free trader, but it seems to me simple common sense that you do not force American workers who make $10-an-hour or $12-an-hour at a textile mill to compete with Mexican workers who have to work for $1-an-hour,″ Buchanan said, his voice hoarse constant campaigning and a cold.
Buchanan said his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement and the international trade pact known as GATT would help bring Perot supporters into his camp.
``I want to make the Republican Party a great coalition. I can bring the Perot voters home,″ Buchanan said. ``I’m the one candidate in the Republican Party who can bring the Perot voters home.″
Perot responded to Buchanan’s statement today, declaring: ``We don’t talk about supporting individuals. It’s totally inappropriate for me to tap somebody on their shoulder.
``The people who create this party, who stand out there in the snow and get the petitions signed, will decide who their candidates are,″ Perot said on ``CBS This Morning.″
Throughout the day Tuesday, as word spread that Gramm might be quitting the race in the wake of his dismal fifth-place finish in Iowa, Buchanan took to praising his former rival. By the end of the day, he was offering sympathy.
``We know what it’s like to get beat. It’s painful and unpleasant and I wish the senator well,″ Buchanan told his own supporters, ``He’s done a lot of good things for us in the Senate.″
Meanwhile, Bay Buchanan, the candidate’s sister and campaign manager, said she had begun making calls to Gramm contributors, hoping they would switch their allegiances and their money to her brother.
New Hampshire Republicans said the short-term beneficiary of a Gramm departure could be Buchanan because much of Gramm’s support in the state comes from gun enthusiasts also targeted by Buchanan.
There was no doubt front-runner Dole was worried about Buchanan, the conservative firebrand who he used to largely ignore.
Dole readied an ad calling Buchanan an extremist, a tag generally applied to the former White House adviser and TV commentator by Democrats.
``The microscope goes on Buchanan now,″ said New Hampshire Republican Rep. Bill Zeal, Dole’s New Hampshire chairman.
``You have to take Buchanan seriously because he has a certain following,″ Dole spokesman Nelson Warfield said, even as he sought to dismiss the Dole rival as ``a hell-raiser and a bomb-thrower.″
Buchanan fired back Tuesday, blaming Senate Majority Leader Dole, along with President Clinton and even Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich for trade deals that Buchanan said hurt American workers.
``Look what happened when that deal miscarried and Mexico needed $50 million,″ he said. ``I protected American workers. Who did they protect? ... They rushed to protect Citibank, Chase Manhattan and Goldman Sachs.″
He added: ``But they won’t protect the American workers.″
Buchanan has run strongly in New Hampshire before. In 1992, he challenged President Bush for the GOP nomination and collected 36 percent of the vote. While Bush won the primary, it pointed up his vulnerability.