Protest 101

March 06, 1992

"We just want to make it clear that we want the conservatives back," said White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater after Tuesday's primaries. "We understand there is a protest vote out there, but we need help in November and we want their support." What he and President Bush really need is a refresher course in Protest 101.

Not everybody voting for Pat Buchanan out of anger is a conservative. An exit poll in Maryland showed twice as many Buchanan voters described themselves as "liberal" or "moderate" as "conservative." So did an exit poll in Georgia, where independents and Democrats could also vote in the GOP primary. Mr. Bush has defeated Mr. Buchanan by a cumulative 2-1 margin. He has won nine times as many delegates. More people are voting Republican and more of them are voting for Mr. Bush than four years ago. There is no need to veer farther to the right than he has already gone. It would suggest panic and might very well cost him more votes in November than he recaptures -- votes that could prove crucial for reelection.

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