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Straight-Shooting Buchanan Dodges Questions Over Third-Party Run

March 22, 1996

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ Pat Buchanan, who has made a living delivering straight answers, is stumbling when it comes to reports he is considering a third-party run for president.

The conservative commentator repeatedly dodged questions about his intentions as he stumped for next Tuesday’s California primary, saying only that he’ll meet with supporters in Virginia next week and ``listen to all the options.″

``We want to hear from them on how we best advance the causes in which we believe and for which we all fought,″ he told reporters Thursday after touring an English-only elementary school.

He also insisted he will be at the Republican National Convention in August, where Sen. Bob Dole will receive the party’s nomination.

Asked if he was warming to the idea of a third-party candidacy, Buchanan responded: ``As I told you, we’re going straight ahead.″

Buchanan again sidestepped the question in an appearance today on Los Angeles station KTTV. Buchanan canceled a KNBC appearance earlier today because his campaigning ran so late Thursday night, aides said.

Noting an increasingly crowded presidential field that will include Ralph Nader in California and possibly Ross Perot, Buchanan said: ``My goal right now is to try to bring the Republican Party together behind ideas that I think can win the nation.″

Asked what role he intended to play at the national convention, Buchanan responded, ``It’s not a role we want, it’s a party.

``We want a party that will become much more middle class, responsive to working-class folks who have lost their jobs, and, frankly, less responsive to corporations who have lobbyists ... who get everything they want at the expense of Middle America,″ he said.

Buchanan’s campaign took a jab Thursday night from House Speak Newt Gingrich, who jokingly said in a speech that the GOP had figured out how to handle the combative Buchanan at the party’s convention.

The good news, Gingrich said, is ``that Pat, in fact, will be on prime time during the convention. I think the bad news will be that he will be hosting `Crossfire’ during that period.″

Some of Buchanan’s advisers are encouraging him to make an independent run for president.

One aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said four of Buchanan’s top advisers, including his sister and campaign manager Bay, are ``foursquare behind the idea.″

Finance Chairman Scott McKenzie also favors the idea, but is concerned about whether the campaign could raise enough money for the effort, another Buchanan aide said.

Bay Buchanan had a ``preliminary discussion″ over lunch last week about a third-party bid with Howard Phillips, a member of the U.S. Taxpayers Party’s executive committee, a third aide said.

But Buchanan campaign spokesman Greg Mueller said some aides favor staying with the Republican Party and trying for the No. 2 spot on the GOP ticket.

``There are a couple of senior aides that think we ought to give serious consideration to a third party while others think it’s important to stay within the Republican Party, vying for the vice presidential slot, looking toward the future and making it more of a Buchanan party,″ said Mueller.

``I didn’t know this week that you’re going to hear Ross Perot announce he’s going to get in the race,″ Buchanan said. ``Lots of things can happen between now and November. You’ve got all sorts of things happening. You hear this U.S. Taxpayer’s Party is lining up.″

The taxpayer’s party on Wednesday announced it would try to put Buchanan on the November ballot around the country. Bay Buchanan said then her brother was committed to running as Republican through the convention but no decision had been made on the offer.

It’s too late for a minor party to qualify for the California ballot, said Alfie Charles, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office. The filing deadline was in October.

But Buchanan could run as an independent or under an existing party’s banner if that party permitted it, Charles said.

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