Buchanan Emerges From The Pack In New Hampshire-- A Weakened Dole Limps Ever Onward ----------------------------------------------------------------- Campaign '96 is officially under way. After caucuses in Louisiana and Iowa and the first primary in New Hampshire, commentator Patrick Buchanan has won 28 delegates and Sen. Robert Dole has won 16. But there is a long road ahead for these candidates and their remaining rivals for the Republican presidential nomination. The Gazette editor Steve Libowitz spoke with political scientist Benjamin Ginsberg, director of the Washington Center for the Study of American Government, to find out if Dole is on the ropes, if Buchanan is for real and if Steve Forbes is history. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Campaign '96 Analysis with Benjamin Ginsberg ----------------------------------------------------------------- Gazette: Interesting things have happened since we last spoke. What have we learned so far? Ginsberg: We have learned that Bob Dole is not a particularly strong candidate, but he still may win the nomination. We've learned that Pat Buchanan is a very effective campaigner, but he still won't win the nomination. We've learned that Lamar Alexander, unless he can pick up additional funding and elite party support, may not get much past New Hampshire. We also have learned that the Republican coalition is far weaker than people have imagined. Gazette: What do you mean by the Republican coalition? Ginsberg: The coalition put together by Ronald Reagan and his successors, which sought to solidify the better-to-do people within the party to whom the Republicans appealed on traditional economic grounds, and the blue collar and lower middle class people to whom they appealed with social issues. Now with all of these people in the party, Buchanan has identified an economic concern that distinguishes them from traditional Republicans, and this is now an economic cleavage, which exists in the party and undermines this coalition base. It may erode Republican chances in presidential elections for years to come. Gazette: Is Pat Buchanan for real, or is he just an amazingly gifted candidate? Ginsberg: I think there's an element of both. Notice how different his campaign is this time than in 1992. Then he made use of racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric. This time there's not an element of either. In fact, he goes out of his way to say that African Americans would serve in his cabinet. And he's doing it because he calculated that these appeals cost him more than he gained last time. So he dropped them. As a tactician, he's positioning himself for maximum effect. Gazette: He might have dropped that rhetoric, but appearing before his supporters after the election, Buchanan encouraged them, shouting over their cheers, "Do not wait for orders from headquarters everybody ... mount up and ride to the sound of the guns." What is that all about? Ginsberg: It's his attempt to characterize his campaign as an ideological crusade, so he uses a very strident form of rhetoric. His appeal is aimed lower in the class structure than traditional Republicans. The quintessential Republican voter in the past has been a suburban stockbroker, and you don't appeal to those people by telling them to mount up and attack the enemy. You appeal to them by explaining how you will lower their taxes. But Buchanan is endeavoring to appeal to voters who are not as well-schooled in assessment of economic self-interest. He's appealing to voters whose emotions are more in play. So his rhetoric is trying to enhance the enthusiasm of these supporters. Remember that one of his major themes is right to life, which is an emotional issue. So Buchanan is smart and by far the cleverest campaigner in the group. What's interesting here is that Buchanan is picking up the new Republicans, those brought into the party on the basis of social issues. A lot of the people mobilized on the social issues are on the losing side of economic transformation, yet they are supporting him on a mixture of social and economic concerns. Buchanan is the only politician in the country appealing to those people. He's arguing for protectionism, for restraint on immigration, implicitly for restriction on corporations in dealing with their work forces. These are all efforts to mobilize voters threatened by the economic transformation, and it reaches into the white collar ranks as well. Gazette: Does it reach beyond New Hampshire? Ginsberg: Absolutely. Gazette: He's a clever campaigner who has struck the right tone and pitch with a segment of the population. Do you think he believes what he's saying, or is just enjoying pushing the right buttons? Ginsberg: I'll leave that to psychologists. He is a man who talks of a conservatism of the heart. My sense of him is that he is a conservative of the heart. He has a visceral reaction to the new morality of recent decades, which he blames on liberal forces who run the government. So I think there is a set of beliefs at the core of his personality. But nevertheless, he is a clever tactician who repositions himself and reinvents himself. In some respects he is the anti-matter Bill Clinton. Like Clinton, one suspects there is a core of beliefs there, and like Bill Clinton, Buchanan is extremely adept at reinvention and identifying themes likely to serve his political interests. Like Bill Clinton, he is a man of the endless campaign who has never governed. And one could argue that Clinton has never governed either. Like Clinton, Buchanan was born for politics. It's in his blood. It would be amusing to see a general campaign between the positively and negatively charged candidates. But I don't think we'll see that. Gazette: Buchanan can't win the nomination? Ginsberg: Not as the Republican Party is presently constituted. The new forces, as I have just described, amount to about a third of the party, and that's Buchanan's core of support. He can't move beyond that because the other two-thirds of the party have benefited from the economic changes currently under way. Again, the Republican Party is the party of the prosperous, of those people who have benefited from the recent boom in stock prices. It's the party of business owners and managers doing well in the world market. It's the party of the folks left after the corporation downsized. So, that's two-thirds of the coalition. And what Pat Buchanan says is absolutely horrible to them. This talk of protectionism. He's telling the party of business to pay workers more money. Come on, let's get serious. It would take a realigned party system for him to break through to a greater percentage of the Republican voters. Gazette: If one believes Bob Dole, Republican voters now have only to choose between himself and Buchanan. Coming out of New Hampshire, is it now a two-man race? Ginsberg: We'll have to wait and see over the next few weeks. People are assessing Lamar Alexander's performance, and they'll have to make a judgment as to whether he is a viable candidate. Dole looks incredibly weak, but is it worthwhile at this point to invest in Alexander? Can he actually win and defeat Clinton. I suppose if a lot of contributors and Republican notables make the judgment that Dole is just too weak to win, we may see a Lamar Alexander surge, but that will play out in the next couple of weeks. There'll be a lot of media scrutiny about him in the next couple of weeks. There already are questions about his finances. His wife is being compared to Hilary Rodham. We'll have to see how well Alexander stands up to this sort of pressure. But it's hard to have much confidence in an Alexander candidacy. He's still untried, unproven. Gazette: What happened to Steve Forbes? Ginsberg: Forbes was strictly a media phenomenon. In person, he was not able to capitalize on the interest generated in his TV ads. He basically bought himself standing in the public opinion polls, but there was not much more to him than that. Gazette: Bob Dornan dropped out the day after New Hampshire. Why haven't Richard Lugar, Alan Keyes and Morry Taylor? Ginsberg: These are vanity campaigns. These candidates are not going to win anything. However, Lugar, I think, is hanging in because he's saying to himself, "Look, Dole is proven that he's too weak, Lamar Alexander is a flash in the pan. So, there's an outside possibility that people will have to turn to me." And let's face it, Lugar is running a low budget campaign, and he's good at making speeches. So it's not costing him much. Gazette: But what is your sense of what he is talking about? What are the issues that are fueling the speeches and campaigns of all these candidates? Ginsberg: So far, the only idea candidate is Buchanan. People would be hard-pressed to tell you what Lamar Alexander's ideas are. He has a couple of issues that he pushes, he just hasn't made much of them. His best issue is, "If you know Bob Dole can't win, and you hate Pat Buchanan, here I am." And I think it's a deliberate strategy, a matter of positioning. His advisers are saying, "Look, there's divisions within the party, why present any issues? Just present yourself as the electable alternative." Alexander is an issue avoider. As for Dole, it is utterly inconceivable that after all these years, his people have not developed themes and issues and ideas. One of the reasons he hasn't generated much enthusiasm-- besides being a poor campaigner--is because in order to generate support and enthusiasm, you have to stand for something, and he's absolutely stood for nothing. This is absolute idiocy. Gazette: This is the sort of thing that killed Ted Kennedy in 1980 when it appeared he had a good chance of challenging President Carter for the Democratic nomination. Ginsberg: Right, the famous question, "Why do you want to be president?" and he just fumbled all over himself. And if Dole had to answer the same question honestly, he'd say, "Because my wife wants me to." That is the true answer. He doesn't want to be president, and it shows. Gazette: How do you see the primaries in Delaware, the Dakotas, Arizona and the South? Ginsberg: There will definitely be a winnowing down. Before Super Tuesday on March 5, we'll have a better idea if Lamar Alexander is a spent force. If I had to bet, I'd say he will be chewed up in the southern primaries. Unless he can generate a large amount of financial support he's basically out of steam. Gazette: Have you revised your prediction for the campaign? Ginsberg: I think Dole will slug it out in trench warfare throughout the remainder of the primaries, getting 60-some percent of the vote to Buchanan's 30-some. But Dole will get the nomination, Buchanan will have a good time at the convention and Clinton will get re-elected.
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