Buchanan vows hard-fought S.C. campaign Message sharpens after third-place Ariz. finish

Campaign 1996

February 29, 1996|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

CLEARWATER, S.C. -- Patrick J. Buchanan needed four cups of coffee to get going yesterday. And a very large umbrella.

But the feisty Republican presidential contender vowed that neither his disappointing third-place finish in Arizona on Tuesday night that has slowed his stupendous surge nor the teeming rain that greeted him here would dampen his campaign in this state.

To recover his momentum, Mr. Buchanan vowed to "fight the hardest campaign we can" in South Carolina -- thought to be an important gateway to the subsequent Southern primaries -- and to give his competitors "the battle of their lives."

Yesterday, he wasted no time sharpening his bite, calling his top rival, Sen. Bob Dole, "the bellhop of the Business Roundtable," and accusing Steve Forbes, who won the Arizona primary, of "faking" his conservative credentials and trying to buy the election.

"We're going to be going after Steve Forbes, exposing the fact that this fellow's a social liberal," Mr. Buchanan said as he left the Augusta, Ga., airport. "You can't be a conservative and be for abortion all the way through the first six months of pregnancy. That's not conservative, and that's not pro-life."

Analyzing his Arizona slip, Mr. Buchanan said he had failed to define Mr. Forbes there, believing that the publisher's candidacy was "sinking like a stone" after his poor finish in New Hampshire.

Hoping to connect with working-class voters -- so his rivals can split the suburban "BMW vote," in the words of his campaign manager, Greg Mueller -- Mr. Buchanan played up his opposition to free-trade agreements that he said imperil American jobs and wages.

Standing outside a textile finishing plant that closed in the mid-1980s before the trade agreements were in place, Mr. Buchanan spoke to about 50 drenched, but wildly cheering, supporters.

"There are losers in this go-go global economy," he shouted. "Someone in this country has got to speak up for the losers in this country. We're putting a spotlight on the people who lose in these trade deals cut by Beltway Bob, the bellhop of the Business Roundtable."

He said he had heard about the new BMW plant in Greer, S.C., a plant that Mr. Dole visited yesterday to highlight the jobs created by foreign-owned businesses that come into the United States.

"That's a good idea -- we ought to have tax policies that bring plants into the United States," he said. "We've also got to talk about trade policies that send factories out of the United States and trade policies that send the jobs of American workers overseas."

Former Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr., a Dole supporter, said Mr. Buchanan was "dead wrong" about job losses in the state. Many plants, like the mill that Mr. Buchanan visited, closed because they failed to modernize, he said.

Mr. Buchanan also was attacked yesterday by former Education Secretary William Bennett, chairman of Lamar Alexander's campaign. He called Mr. Buchanan's stand on immigration -- the candidate has proposed a fence to keep out illegal immigrants and a five-year ban on legal immigration -- a "stinking rotten attitude."

In response, Mr. Buchanan called Mr. Bennett "an elitist, a bit of a Beltway blowhard." Illegal immigration isn't a problem "in the little village of Chevy Chase" where Mr. Bennett lives, Mr. Buchanan said, but is a serious problem in the rest of the country.

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