It's Weird Out There, Man

March 12, 1992

After the March 3 primaries here, in Georgia and Colorado, we said that "every punch [Pat] Buchanan takes and shakes off, the more he devalues a Bush nomination. If he goes 15 rounds, a Bush decision may be worthless." Continuing with that metaphor, we are tempted to suggest to those in Mr. Buchanan's corner: "Throw in the towel."

Not only is Mr. Buchanan losing badly, he does worse in each round. He may still be shaking off punches, but he is also sounding a bit punchy.

How else can one interpret his calling on George Bush to give up after the March 3 round?

How else can one understand his offering the president, after the latest voting, "one more chance to withdraw"?

On Feb. 18, Mr. Buchanan got 37.4 percent of the primary vote. On March 3, he got 32.4 percent. On March 10, he got 27 percent. George Bush is much stronger than he was in New Hampshire. His share of the vote there on Feb. 18 was only 53.3 percent. On March 3, he got 67.1 percent. On March 10, he got 69 percent. No wonder the president, noting Mr. Buchanan's demands and some of the positive press assessments of the Buchanan candidacy, said Tuesday, "I'll tell you, it's weird out there, man. When a 40-point win isn't considered a victory, what the hell is going on out there?"

That was not hyperbole. President Bush's margin over Mr. Buchanan was 43 percentage points in Oklahoma, 50 in Texas and Tennessee and 55 in Mississippi, where Mr. Buchanan's Confederate ancestor is also buried, and where he said he had his best chance Tuesday. In Mississippi, Mr. Buchanan's 17 percent of the vote was not that much more than David Duke's 11.

Mr. Buchanan may not be what Rich Bond, the Republican national chairman, called him -- "David Duke. . . in a jacket and tie" -- but he does attract many Duke voters, which is actually a good thing. Had there not been a Buchanan candidacy, Mr. Duke could have been an embarrassment to the party of Abraham Lincoln. He might have been getting much more than the 2 and 3 percent he got in most of the Southern primaries.

For that, Republicans can be thankful the Buchanan candidacy endured through Super Tuesday. But if he stays in the race much longer, with his wild anti-Bush haymakers, he is not likely to keep the party leaders' -- or conservative movement leaders' -- gratitude. History suggests the later a party's wings reconcile and fly in harmony, the poorer the party's nominee does in November.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.