Buchanan Wins Granite State
MANCHESTER, N.H. (Feb. 20) -- After a tough and testy campaign, conservative commentator Pat Buchanan scored a narrow, stunning victory tonight over Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan.) in the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary.
With votes counted from 100 percent of the Granite State's 300 precincts, Buchanan was ahead of Dole 27 percent to 26 percent. Former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander was locked in third place, with 23 percent.
The three men were bunched so closely that analysts predicted a protracted battle for the GOP nomination in this year's punishing, compressed schedule of primaries and caucusess. Millionaire publisher Malcolm S. "Steve" Forbes Jr. finished a distant fourth with 12 percent and faced an uncertain future.
Buchanan told cheering campaign volunteers the New Hampshire voters who supported him said no to negative advertising, attacks and smears against him.
"They voted their hopes, not their fears," Buchanan said. "They stood up to the negativists inside the Beltway." Buchanan called his win "a victory for the good men and women of Middle America."
Dole, in a slap at Buchanan's hard right conservatism, told his supporters the next month will decide whether the Republican Party is a party of fear or hope.
"It's a two-man race from now on, and we know that we're now engaged in a fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party," Dole said.
"You're looking at the nominee of the Republican Party right now," Dole added. "We're about one election away from realizing our hopes and our dreams. That election's going to come in November."
Turnout was heavy, maybe even record-setting, with more than 75 percent of registered Republicans casting ballots. A predicted freezing rain that could have put a damper on turnout failed to materialize.
Only 16 delegates were at stake, with 996 needed to the GOP's nomination next summer in San Diego. However, New Hampshire voters always have taken seriously their job of winnowing the field, separating the contenders from the pretenders.
The state's influence has been undeniable. Since 1948, in 12 presidential election cycles, 11 candidates won here en route to the White House. President Bill Clinton is the sole exception, finishing second in 1992.
According to exit polling, Dole and Alexander split the moderate to liberal Republican vote, while Buchanan pulled strongly among those who described themselves as "very conservative."
Dole led among voters who considered the federal budget deficit the most important issue, but he and Buchanan were tied among voters who considered the economy the biggest issue.
In between the New Hampshire campaign's attacks, ubiquitous TV ads and other distractions, there were genuine issues and the voters had a clear choice.
Dole stressed his Washington experience and the need for America to play a role in the world, while Buchanan and Alexander played the role of outsiders, and Forbes continued to push his 17 percent flat tax.
More than any other candidate, Buchanan set the agenda between last week's Iowa caucuses and today's vote, sounding populist economic themes and calling for a renewal of American values.
"We're bringing people into the Republican party, working men and women," Buchanan said earlier today. "...These are Democrats. We're bringing them home."
Buchanan hedged on whether he would win N.H. "I think we've won the issues battle," he said. "I don't know if we're going to win the numbers battle."
Buchanan came off a strong second-place finish in Iowa, only to stumble when a watchdog group revealed that one of his campaign chairs, Larry Pratt, had ties with white supremacist groups. Pratt denied holding racist views, but the accusation revived worries that Buchanan's nomination could split the party and ensure Clinton's re-election.
Dole, who watched his lead erode in the face of constant hammering by other candidates, tried to stake out a middle ground between Buchanan's hard-right views and what he claimed was Alexander's covert liberalism.
"I feel like all my life I've been in preparation for this very moment," Dole said at a final campaign appearance.
Vin Weber, Dole's national co-chair, said Dole remains the best candidate to pull the party together and beat President Clinton in the fall.
"The question is are we going to get serious about nominating the next presiden t of the United States or are we going to play games," Weber said on CNN's "Crossfire."
Alexander, who had tried to portray himself as the only one running a positive campaign despite the fact that he launched the first negative ads, attacked Dole as a man with no ideas and Buchanan as someone with the wrong ideas.
Alexander told CNN that despite Buchanan's victory, he does not think Buchanan can win the nomination. "I think it's (Buchanan's victory) going to wake up the party," he said."The party will never unify behind Pat," Alexander said. "I don't know anybody who thinks Pat Buchanan will be the Republican nominee."
Alexander said he was happy with his showing and predicted more people will see him as the one candidate who can bring the party together and beat Clinton. "This is the first primary," he said. "I'm just getting started."
An Alexander aide, Steve Watson, predicted Buchanan would fall by the wayside. "It's (the race) going to come down to Gov. Alexander and Sen. Dole," he said.
Forbes, who stumbled to a disappointing fourth-place finish in Iowa, tried to adopt a more positive message and TV ad strategy, but watched his support wither nonetheless.
In its final days, the campaign turned into a nasty slugfest, with candidates trading jabs in person at last Thursday's debate and on the airwaves. According to a CNN survey, the top four candidates spent more than $3.5 million on TV advertising.
The final polling data on election eve showed Dole and Buchanan fighting for first, with Alexander in close pursuit and Forbes in fourth place.
All four men have pledged, no matter how New Hampshire turns out, to stick with the race as it moves next to Arizona and the Dakotas on Feb. 27 and South Carolina on March 2. Forbes also plans to campaign in the largely shunned Delaware primary on Saturday.
There also was a Democratic primary, although President Clinton had no major opposition.
In the first voting after midnight today in two tiny towns in northern New Hampshire -- Dixville Notch and Hart's Location -- Dole won by one vote over Alexander.
Dole captured 14 of the 39 votes cast in the GOP primary. Alexander had 13. Buchanan was next with five, and Forbes had four. Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar and dropout Texas Sen. Phil Gramm each had one vote, along with a write-in for Colin Powell. In the Democratic primary, Clinton got 12 votes.
In their final pitches, the GOP candidates trumpeted their visions for the country even as they continued sniping at each other.
The fiery Buchanan has likened the gathering strength of his campaign to "peasants with pitchforks coming over the hill" and predicted: "We will go all the way. They will not stop us."
In a stirring address to a torchlit rally of loyalists, Dole defended his years of public service in the face of his opponents' disdain for the Washington establishment. He recalled with a wavering voice his modest upbringing in small-town Kansas, World War II service that left him severely wounded and a long political career from county attorney to Congress.
But Alexander continued to argue that Dole was not the man to beat Clinton this fall or lead the nation.
"How could he have gotten to this point in his career and not have one fresh idea about where to take this country as we move into the next century?" Alexander asked.
Finishing far behind the top four Republicans were Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) with 6 percent, talk show host Alan Keyes with 3 percent, tire manufacturer Morry Taylor with 1 percent and U.S. Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Calif.) with less than 1 percent.
Lugar, who's lagged far behind in the race, called it "a demolition derby" of negative charges and countercharges. And he held out little prospect for finishing in the top tier.
|| AllPolitics home page | AllPolitics New Hampshire Primary page ||