Buchanan edges out Dole in N.H. primary Victorious campaign was aimed at state's worried and wary

Closest race in 20 years

Dole vows to wrestle for 'heart and soul' of Republican Party

Campaign 1996

February 21, 1996|By Paul West | Paul West,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

BEDFORD, N.H. -- Tapping the fears and resentments of an anxious working class, Patrick J. Buchanan threw the Republican nomination up for grabs yesterday with a stunning upset of Sen. Bob Dole in the New Hampshire primary.

The race was the closest here in at least 20 years. Out of more than 200,000 votes cast, only about 2,300 votes separated the leaders.

Former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander, who badly wanted to finish in the top two, had to settle for third. Magazine publisher Steve Forbes, once a leader in the polls, was a distant fourth.

Mr. Buchanan, whose campaign successes have exposed deep divisions within the Republican Party, claimed victory, crediting the strength of his populist message of trade protectionism and social conservatism.

"We have shown that ideals, and convictions and passion and fire and energy can beat all the money they've got," declared the conservative commentator, who withstood a heavy TV ad assault from Mr. Dole and intense publicity over allegations of racism against a top official of his campaign.

"We've won a tremendous victory here tonight," Mr. Buchanan told an ecstatic crowd of supporters at a ballroom in Manchester, N.H. "But we've no longer got the element of surprise. All of the forces of the old order are going to rally against us."

Mr. Dole, for his part, vowed to contest Mr. Buchanan for "the heart and soul of the Republican Party" over the next month.

More than two dozen delegate contests are coming up, he said, and those would "decide if we are the party of fear or the party of hope [the party that] keeps people out or brings people in."

Showing more emotion than he has in recent weeks on the campaign trail, the Senate majority leader struck a defiant note.

"Everybody who knows Bob Dole knows that things haven't come easy for me. But we're not going to give up," he told supporters at a Manchester hotel, refusing to concede defeat in either New Hampshire or the nomination race. "We have not yet begun to fight."

Turnout was reported to be a record. Scattered rain fell and skies were cloudy throughout the state, but temperatures rose into the 40s, a mild, almost balmy, midwinter day in New England.

In the Democratic primary, the victor was President Clinton, who faced no serious opposition. Mr. Clinton broke a historical streak four years ago by becoming the first person to win the White House without winning New Hampshire (he was second to former Sen. Paul E. Tsongas of Massachusetts).

Yesterday's election was expected to weed out weaker GOP candidates, and at least one of them, industrialist Morry Taylor, appeared headed for the sidelines last night.

But two others who finished far back, Indiana Sen. Richard G. Lugar and former Maryland Senate candidate Alan L. Keyes, said they planned to continue.

No Republican since 1964 has won the nomination without running first in New Hampshire, and Mr. Dole had spent millions in a futile effort to secure the victory that eluded him here in 1980, 1988 and now, again, yesterday.

"Now I know why they call this the Granite State. Because it's so hard to crack," he told supporters last night with a somewhat forced smile.

As he has at every stage of the campaign, Mr. Dole failed to meet the expectations set by his own campaign. Lackluster on )) the stump, he was unable to energize mainstream Republicans.

His candidacy steadily lost support over the past few weeks despite the backing of virtually the entire party establishment of this state, including popular Gov. Stephen Merrill, who campaigned almost nonstop for him.

Mr. Dole, who saw one of his main challengers, Sen. Phil Gramm, drop out after losing in Iowa, had hoped New Hampshire would at least eliminate another threat, Mr. Alexander. Last night, the senator argued that point, calling the GOP contest "a two-man race from now on. It's going to be a one-man race before long."

But Mr. Alexander vowed to stay in, insisting the nomination battle was now a three-man race, as did Mr. Forbes. Mr. Alexander hopes to win Saturday's primary in Delaware.

Mr. Alexander, whose attempts to raise badly needed campaign funds will be hampered by consecutive third-place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, conceded that "it would be better if I were second" yesterday.

The former Tennessee governor said, "I have to start winning soon," meaning in the round of primaries between now and March 5.

Mr. Dole, Mr. Alexander said on CNN, is much weaker than expected. Having lost New Hampshire, "all the king's horses and all the king's men and all their money will not be able to put him back together again."

The results confirm that Mr. Buchanan is now driving the debate on the Republican side with his high-octane blend of economic and social policies aimed directly at Americans alienated from Washington and increasingly worried about getting hit by fallout from the global economy.

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