Republicans divided Buchanan's surge: GOP Establishment challenged as it has not been since 1964.

February 22, 1996

PAT BUCHANAN's spectacular victory in the New Hampshire primary confronts the Republican Establishment with its greatest challenge since the Barry Goldwater upheaval of 1964. In that watershed election, Senator Goldwater moved the center of power in the GOP South and West and Right, where it remains to this day. But having achieved this task, one that paved the way for Ronald Reagan, "Mr. Conservative" found himself the victim of a Democratic avalanche the following November.

Memories of 1964 surely must haunt the 1996 version of the Republican Establishment as it contemplates Mr. Buchanan's attempt to recast the party into a populist movement uniting the religious right with discontented working class voters. As was the case 32 years ago, the candidate of upheaval has a zeal and singleness of purpose that contrasts with the divisions so evident in the GOP mainstream.

Consider the results from New Hampshire. Mr. Buchanan with 28 percent of the vote, and his fellow TV performer, Alan Keyes, with 3 percent, drew a total of 31 percent. Thus, less than a third of the party supported social conservatism. Aligned against them were four economic conservatives who drew 67 percent, or more than two-thirds of the vote. But does that mean Bob Dole with 27 percent, Lamar Alexander with 23 percent, Steve Forbes with 12 percent and Dick Lugar with 5 percent can comfortably conclude that the Buchanan candidacy is doomed? Not if they remember 1964.

In that campaign, the Establishment ricocheted from Nelson Rockefeller to Henry Cabot Lodge to William Scranton, and when it was all over it was hooted down at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. History will not repeat; it never does. Political forces today are driven by different issues, different money streams and a different, front-loaded primary election schedule that may establish the identity of the party nominee long before national convention time.

Much depends on whether the Republican Establishment can settle on a single rival to Mr. Buchanan -- and make its decision stick. For the moment, the need to preserve the party against isolationism, protectionism, bigotry and jingoism is consumed by personal ambition among the Mainstream Four.

Maybe a few words from Senator Goldwater are needed. Now retired in Arizona, a curmudgeon beloved by former foes, Mr. Goldwater is at home with the economic conservatism and the libertarian spirit that prevail in the GOP but he has little time for the social/religious issues associated with Mr. Buchanan.

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