Buchanan is shifting goal of his campaign ON POLITICS

March 11, 1992|By JACK GERMOND & JULES WITCOVER

DALLAS -- At a fund-raising dinner at the posh Adolphus Hotel here the other night, Brent Bozell III, a leading light in the Pat Buchanan for President campaign, announced that its treasury had just passed the $6 million mark.

That was all Buchanan had to hear. Whatever happened on Super Tuesday, he told his cheering supporters, he was going on a Michigan, which holds its primary next Tuesday, and then on through the last major primary, in California in June.

At the same time, however, Buchanan spoke of the reality of his challenge to President Bush. "We can't win the nomination by winning the silver medal in every state in a two-man race," he said. Eventually, though, "this cause is going to triumph," he said. "This campaign has energized the young people as they have not been since I was a crew-cut kid for Barry Goldwater in 1960 and 1961."

The comment conveyed the manner in which Buchanan has already started shifting from a fight for the Republican nomination to establishing the groundwork for a movement to retake the Reagan Revolution, which he charges has been usurped by Bush. "There's going to be a great sundering," he predicted, "now that the throne of Ronald Reagan is vacant."

Buchanan clearly sees himself as the second coming of Goldwater, who at the 1960 Republican convention that nominated Richard Nixon issued the war cry, "Wake up, conservatives," that marked the birth of that revolution. Goldwater won the party's nomination in 1964 but lost overwhelmingly to Lyndon Johnson, but his campaign provided the platform and the troops for Ronald Reagan's campaign in 1976 and eventual election in 1980.

As Buchanan seeks to emulate Goldwater, however, he also resembles in words as well as actions another politician whose ++ views he diametrically opposes: Jesse Jackson. In 1984 and 1988, Jackson ran campaigns that began as quests for the Democratic nomination but shifted to building a movement, a "cause," when it became clear he could not win.

Also like Jackson, Buchanan hopes to ride the zealousness of his supporters -- and their money -- all the way to his party's convention in Houston in August, where he will have his greatest platform yet for conveying his message, nagging the party to move in his direction ideologically and inspiring his troops for future political battle.

Even if he failed to get the nomination, he said, "we've got other objectives. One is bringing the party to its conservative base. We want to redefine conservatism . . . The nomination is the big pot of gold but there are smaller pots of gold available to us."

On another occasion, Buchanan insisted: "We're going the distance. Nothing is going to make me quit because this is about the heart and soul of the Republican Party, We're gaining ground on our ideas."

Part of Buchanan's redefining conservatism is a much tougher attitude toward foreign allies and trade competitors in the post-Cold War era -- a direct challenge to Bush's ill-defined call for a New World Order. Buchanan demands a virtual end to foreign aid and sharp cuts in overseas troop deployments, with resources brought home to meet domestic needs.

After fighting the Cold War, Buchanan told roaring students at the University of Dallas, the United States should tell its allies that "the full cost of your defense is going to be borne by you, and there's going to be no more freeloading on the American people."

In focusing next on Michigan, Buchanan is moving to ground that has been fertile for protest, anti-establishment politics in the past. In 1968 and 1972, then Gov. George Wallace of Alabama tapped into white blue-collar discontent in suburban Detroit; in 1980 and 1984, so did Reagan, and Bush was heir to those efforts in 1988.

Like New Hampshire, Michigan continues to struggle with the recession, with the auto industry experiencing one of its worst years and the announced 74,000 job cuts by General Motors falling hardest on its plants in Michigan. Buchanan may not be able to win there, but his "send Bush a message" campaign should rally enough support to keep his "cause" going.

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