Ex-Klan Leader’s Campaign Overshadowed By Buchanan
NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke still draws crowds but his Republican presidential campaign appears underfunded, outgunned by an incumbent and overshadowed by another GOP upstart.
Analysts say his role as the protest candidate for the party’s right wing has been usurped by Patrick Buchanan, a staunch conservative without Duke’s neo-Nazi portfolio.
″I’d say Duke was almost invisible to begin with and now Buchanan has made him more invisible,″ said Earl Black, a political science professor at the University of South Carolina.
Buchanan’s 37 percent showing in New Hampshire firmly established him as the legitimate challenger to President Bush, said Billy Nungesser, the Louisiana GOP chairman who endorsed Buchanan last week.
″If Duke made a mistake politically, it was staying out of the New Hampshire primary,″ Nungesser said.
Duke drew an estimated 800 to a rally in Richardson, Texas, on Wednesday and 700 to a rally near Houston on Thursday. He still delivers the same message that propelled him to a narrow 1989 victory in a Louisiana House race. No new taxes. No affirmative action. Welfare reform.
But his political light has dimmed under intense scrutiny of his Klan and neo-Nazi past. He drew only 39 percent of the vote in the 1991 governor’s race, losing to scandal-tinged former Gov. Edwin Edwards. He had to give up a chance at re-election to his legislative seat - his foothold on political legitimacy - to seek the governor’s mansion.
He’s no longer a fixture on network news shows, as he was during the governor’s race. His presidential campaign is only beginning to show signs of life, less than a week before his primary debut on Saturday in South Carolina. He is running a 30-minute campaign spot on television stations there and plans three days of appearances.
Campaigning in Texas last week, Duke vacillated between treating Buchanan as an anti-Bush ally and running against him.
″I think between myself and Patrick Buchanan, we have the opportunity of denying the vote to President Bush,″ Duke said.
″I’m better versed on the issues. I’ve been talking about these issues for a long time. I was the first candidate to talk about these issues in the country.″
Besides Buchanan, Duke has had to fend off better organized and longtime foes. The Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Naziism recently distributed a booklet outlining his past ties to extremists, and recapping interviews he gave in the 1980s that cast doubt on his claims he is no longer racist. The 40-page booklet was sent to media in states where Duke is a primary candidate.
Duke has money problems, too. He has to repeatedly deny charges he only runs for office to line his pockets. And a January campaign finance report showed his campaign with only $58,864 - most of that left over from the governor’s race.
″He doesn’t have money and he doesn’t have his life blood, which is media coverage,″ said Wayne Parent, a political scientist at Louisiana State University.
Campaign spokesman Marc Ellis said a recent direct-mail appeal should remedy the funding problem.
And he dismissed the idea that Duke’s campaign is struggling.
″Reporters and establishment politicians have been writing off David Duke for the last four years,″ Ellis said. ″They’ve been wrong every time. They’re wrong this time. He’s the only candidate for president who doesn’t need a big organization, he has so much grass roots support.″
Nungesser said that support will erode with the rise of Buchanan, even in Duke’s home state.
″Duke had a lot of momentum going with him for the last two or three years in our state running on the Republican agenda,″ said Nungesser. ″He’s lost it now.″