SHIELDS & GIGOT
FEBRUARY 16, 1996
Mark Shields and Paul Gigot on the campaign trail in New Hampshire talk about who's ahead in the Republican Primary.
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ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Now Shields & Gigot with analysis of the debate and other matters relating to Campaign '96. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and "Wall Street Journal" columnist Paul Gigot. THey are both in Manchester, New Hampshire tonight. Paul, who do you think benefited most from the debate?
PAUL GIGOT, Wall Street Journal: Maybe Bob Dornan. I don't know. He seemed to come out as the referee to try to tell all these Republicans don't keep killing one another. So in that sense, he was making a very good broader political point, but I think that they all helped themselves I think in some respect. I thought that Lamar Alexander was probably introducing himself to the voters in a way that the others haven't. They've Steve Forbes's ads. They know Bob Dole and Pat Buchanan. But Lamar Alexander, a lot of voters were seen for the first time, and that may have helped him present himself in a way that impressed some voters. He doesn't have the high negatives that a lot of the other candidates do, so I think that he probably benefited the most from the debate.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mark, who do you think benefited most?
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Well, one survey, Elizabeth, today of people who have been undecided or uncertain showed, who had watched the debate, showed the Alan Keyes, former ambassador, got the biggest jump of anybody. He had most impressed people, which again fits Paul's theory that people hadn't seen him before and his message was unique last night. He was the one who was sort of lecturing all the other Republicans as they seemed to put on their green eye shades and talk about taxes and budgets and balancing and all the rest are saying you can do that, cut the taxes, balance the budget, and the problems of the country won't go away. But I think that probably Pat Buchanan did up until the closing remarks. I think that Pat Buchanan--any time--one candidate said to me the agenda that's being debated, I think Pat Buchanan did last night, then that candidate probably profits the most, even though he may be answering questions about his policy, and I think that Pat until his closing soliloquy had been in that position of dominating the dialogue.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And what dominated the dialogue was the economic, the combative economic nationalism, right?
MR. SHIELDS: That's right.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How do you explain the fact that it dominated the dialogue?
MR. SHIELDS: Well, I think there's two factors. I think in this--I may get an argument from Paul on this, but I don't think there's any question the Contract With America is dead. Nobody talks about it. The distillation of the Contract With America in this campaign was Phil Gramm, the Senator from Texas, who withdrew this past week. Nobody talks in terms of the Congress and what a wonderful Congress we've had, what a great year we've had, there's no bragging, no boasting, there's no legislative agenda. So there's a void on the, on the campaign this year, and I think that Pat Buchanan through the passion of his convictions and through the saliency of his message has struck a chord, and when somebody does well with a message, other candidates often flock to it. Last night, Lamar Alexander, the former Tennessee governor, endorsed a new Marine Corps to patrol the border. That was a, that was a new idea. And, and Bob Dole since he's been in town this week has come out against obscene--not obscene, I guess, record profits and record layoffs, and those are Pat Buchanan's issues, and I think it's because Pat struck a chord with him.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Paul, what do you think about that? Is it because he struck a chord, or is there something else happening here?
MR. GIGOT: Well, I think that first let me make a response to Mark on the Contract With America. I think for all of these candidates and for the voters, the Republican Contract agenda, the congressional agenda, was kind of discounted. It's assumed that it is going to go ahead, and Bob Dole, if anyone, is running on fulfilling that congressional agenda. He doesn't have an agenda of his own really.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And yet nobody talked about it, nobody mentioned the Contract With America or the various things the Republican revolution has tried to accomplish.
MR. GIGOT: Well, Bob Dole has talked about it. He said family tax credits, the capital gains reduction, he went through the list of things, and essentially is saying if you elect me, I'm the--I'm the President who can get it done. He kept talking about Bill Clinton blocking that agenda. All--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: That's true.
MR. GIGOT: All we are is one election away from, from fulfilling that agenda. So I think Dole in a way has emerged as the candidate of that. Pat Buchanan is doing a couple of thing. One is he's trying to do something that the Republican Party hasn't done in 70 years, which is to talk about protectionism and tariffs. Back in the 1920's, the Republican Party was called the tariff party. One economist used to call tariffs the household remedy of the Republicans. Then you had the Smoot Hawley Tariff and it kind of, that issue died in American politics. It's been resurrected now with the new global competition, and Pat Buchanan is saying with some--he's trying to use this as his remedy for the problem of flat wages in this economy. He's saying he blames that economy on foreign competition, and so he's introducing something completely new in recent history to Republican politics, and I think that's why he's become the focal point because I think it threatens to divide the Republican Party right down the middle on economics.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mark, do you agree with that? What do you think this says, Pat Buchanan's success says about the Republican Party?
MR. SHIELDS: Pat Buchanan is, is doing the unthinkable. He's criticizing CEO's. You have to understand that CEO's are sort of the pin-up boys of most Republican meetings, they are--they are listened to, they are heeded, they're admired, they're interviewed, and Pat Buchanan is saying, wait a minute, you have a higher responsibility. That responsibility I don't think has anything to do with tariffs nearly as much as the, the sense that American companies, driven by profits, driven by shareholders and stockholders, are indifferent to workers and demonstrate that time and again, and indifferent to communities where people have organized their lives and their hopes and their futures around the jobs there, and as their productivity has increased, their job security has become less. And I think that's what he's tapped into. He's reaching into an entirely different constituency from--that Republicans have appealed to in the past. Ronald Reagan did win those votes, but it was a different time and a different message. And I think the, I think the Buchanan phenomenon is, is not to be just put aside or something as protectionist. There is a class difference in the United States on the subject of free trade. In Washington, D.C., Elizabeth, overwhelming unanimity in favor of tree trade, because there's no $35 a week Taiwanese bureau chiefs coming to take anybody's job in Washington, D.C., I think that's one of the principal reasons. There are a lot of people who have seen their jobs go overseas and companies in pursuit of profit take those jobs overseas, and that anxiety and that vulnerability is almost palpable, even in a state with low unemployment like New Hampshire.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And what about Steve Forbes, what did he need to do last night, and did he accomplish it, Mark?
MR. SHIELDS: Well, I think Steve Forbes obviously was scalded by the, by the negativity of the campaign in Iowa and especially by the post mortems. One, the CNN-Gallup Poll showed that 2/3 of the people who think this is a negative campaign in New Hampshire blamed the Forbes campaign for the tone of negativity. He has scrapped that. He's returned to his positive message. He did do that last night, and the other thing he had to do was cut into Lamar Alexander, who has cut into him. They're drawing essentially from the same voter pool in this primary, and he had to raise doubts about Lamar Alexander which I think he did do last night. They make not take between now and Tuesday, but they're going to be around for a while after New Hampshire.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Paul, do you agree with that? Do you think that the attacks or raising the questions about Lamar Alexander's business deals, do you think that really hit home?
MR. GIGOT: Well, I think it raised some doubts about Lamar Alexander on the point of his greatest vulnerability, which is also a point that Bob Dole has been aiming at in his ads here, which scald Lamar Alexander as a liberal on spending, on crime, and on taxes, and that is how authentic is Lamar Alexander? He's running here on a pretty good message. It's a kind of retooled conservative message, culturally conservative, tax cuts and so on, and what Dole and the others are trying to do is say look at his record, look at his background, he's really not telling you--the Dole tag line on the ad is not what he pretends to be, which has echoes of the Fall campaign that the Republicans want to run against Bill Clinton. So that's where Forbes is going directly at Alexander. I think Mark is right when he says that they're competing for the same electorate. Lamar Alexander has to finish at least second here, or else Bob Dole, he could finish third if Bob Dole loses and go on. But if he finishes third and Bob Dole wins, he's going to be in trouble trying to get on from here, so--from New Hampshire--so he's really got to take those votes from Steve Forbes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Is there any sense of where Phil Gramm's votes are going, the votes he might have gotten in New Hampshire?
MR. GIGOT: Well, I think Pat Buchanan's fighting for them, and that's one of the reasons that I think he brought up Larry Pratt last night and defended him, because he's part of Gun Owners of America. The leader of Gun Owners of New Hampshire had endorsed Phil Gramm, and there's an awful lot of gun owners up here, and a lot of them had been supporting Phil Gramm. And I think Pat Buchanan said, I want to get some of those votes because a lot of pollsters think that with Pat Buchanan's high negatives--I mean, he's not--they're close to 50 percent, almost as high as Steve Forbes now--he maybe has a ceiling on how many more votes he can get. So he's got to keep that support that he's got and he's got to get the activists like gun owners and the abortion--anti-abortion activists to stick to him, and I think he was reaching out to them last night.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mark, I want to talk about Larry Pratt, the campaign--the co-chair of the campaign, co-director of the campaign of Pat Buchanan. Why do you think he brought it up? None of the other candidates did. Pat Buchanan brought it up in his final remarks in the debate.
MR. SHIELDS: He did. I don't think it had the strategic dimension to it that Paul has ascribed to it. I don't think it was something that Pat thought about. Pat Buchanan in the litany of his personal virtues, loyalty ranks very, very high. Pat Buchanan was with Richard Nixon until the very last moment in the White House. Pat Buchanan did not cut on Ronald Reagan and Iran-Contra as several of his less--the sunshine soldiers did. And so Pat Buchanan, I think, last night decided to bring up the Larry Pratt thing because he felt Larry Pratt had been wrong. I think if he, if he just wanted to reach and send a message, Elizabeth, to the gun owners, they could have sent a direct mail piece over the weekend, telegrams, they've got those lists, and say, look, they're going after our guy because of us and we belong to the same thing, we believe in the Second Amendment, and all the rest of it. I think Pat Buchanan's basic combativeness, his viscera, took, took over last night in the closing moments when he made that, what to me was a tactical mistake.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think about that, Paul?
MR. GIGOT: Well, Elizabeth, I think what he was doing--I mean, I agree with Mark that loyalty is something that Pat Buchanan prizes, but there's also a kind of a cultural identity message which Pat Buchanan is trying to send out. He's trying to say to all these people, you've been disenfranchised for a long time, the establishment and the Republican Party and the Democratic Party doesn't pay any attention to you, people who are anti-abortion, people who like guns, people who favor protectionism, I'm on your side, and he was trying to send that message to those gun owners out there that we know the establishment, everybody's against you, but I'm not, and I'm big enough to stand up and say this on national TV. It was a deliberate play to their cultural identity.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay, thank you very much, both of you. Stay warm up there.
MR. SHIELDS: Okay. Thank you, Elizabeth.