Breaking Away: Super Tuesday Fallout

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: For an assessment of Campaign '96 to date, we're joined by syndicated columnist Mark Shields and "Wall Street Journal" columnist Paul Gigot. Welcome, both of you. You've heard Pat Buchanan say that Forbes dropping out leaves it a two-person race and a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. Is that what Forbes dropping out will mean?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: It means it is a two-way race, there's no doubt it, Elizabeth, but I think Pat Buchanan was trying to cast that as future against past. It's–you heard early echoes of what the Clinton folks are going to try and do against Bob Dole in the Fall, if, in fact, he is the nominee, as I think we both expect he will be.


MR. SHIELDS: Well, in other words, they'll try–that Pat Buchanan's implicit argument is Bob Dole is yesterday, our movement is tomorrow, and Bill Clinton will be our, our generation, his is a wonderful generation to whom we're grateful, we're appreciative, but now it's time to move on, and I think that he–you'll be hearing sort of bookend arguments on the Republican challenger to Dole from the Democratic incumbent.

PAUL GIGOT, Wall Street Journal: In terms of the nomination, this is a race between Bob Dole and Bob Dole. I mean, Pat Buchanan isn't going to win it. But Pat Buchanan has always been in this not just to have a chance at winning. In fact, I think the victory in New Hampshire surprised him, and he began to think after that that he really might win, and that's why some of the defeats later were real blows. But he's always been in this for another reason, which is to emerge as "the" spokesman for the conservative wing of the Republican Party. He wants to change the Republican Party. He wasn't happy with the majority coalition that won Congress in '94. He wants to change it, willing to throw out some of those elitists, he says, some of those economic conservatives, to bring in some social conservatives and bring an appeal, he hopes, to AFL-CIO Democrats, union members. I think it's a very iffy proposition, but that's why he's in this. He's a conviction politician.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Before we go into more depth about that, why do you think Steve Forbes is pulling out?

MR. GIGOT: Because he wasn't going to–because $10 million, which is what it would have taken to spend in California–is an awful lot of money to spend to make a point and not have a chance at the nomination. I mean, it really–doing as poorly as he did, he didn't have a chance, and I think he's doing the right thing.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How much do you think it helps Dole?

MR. SHIELDS: I don't know if it helps Dole. I think that it's a time with Steve Forbes pulling out tomorrow to reflect upon what it's like running for President. Everybody who runs for President has generally reached a level of success and accomplishment in politics, of private life, that enables him to do so, and most people who run for President obviously lose, and there is no experience more publicly painful or painfully public than running for President and losing. For Steve Forbes, it's doubly difficult because he had the–he had the exhilaration. He had the adrenaline high of winning. He won in Arizona. It's one thing to lose and lose a series of primaries and just get out of the race, which is painful in itself, but once you try and rekindle, recapture, exactly after Pat Buchanan in New Hampshire or Alaska, you, you say, gee, the crowds get bigger, they get more enthusiastic, then you have the string of defeats, and it's really tough. And I think it's a time to be gentle with people who, who are leaving, and you realize you're not going to rekindle and recapture what you had.

MR. GIGOT: Let me say something about Steve Forbes, because I think that one thing he did do in this race is he put ideas on the table, and for all the talk about his money, it was his own money, and he was willing to invest that in what was always a long shot proposition, and he put the growth agenda, the tax-cutting, Reaganite optimistic message back in the Republican Party, when I don't think he–if he had not run, it would not have been on the table, because nobody else was taking it. That's the vacuum he sought to fill, and really, if Bob Dole now wants to take that message, he can take that once Forbes leaves the race and run with it himself, some version of it, not the pure flat tax necessarily, but some version of it, and use it as an antidote to Pat Buchanan and frankly, against Bill Clinton in November.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So do you disagree with Pat Buchanan when he says, he said, "Our agenda is the agenda driving the nation and the party," referring to his own agenda?

MR. GIGOT: I think there's no question that Pat Buchanan has driven the social agenda in this campaign. I think that he can say with good justification that he is going to prevent any change in the platform on abortion at the Republican Convention, but I think that as regards to trade protection, for example, and the trade issue, I think that's been repudiated in the primaries. That's not driving anybody, and as regards his economic diagnosis has, the anxiety that people feel, he's put that on the table, but the solutions, that debate has still to be fought out in years to come.

MR. SHIELDS: I think that Pat Buchanan deserves enormous credit in an under-financed campaign, an overlooked campaign, a much disparaged campaign. He has put front and center the economic anxiety and the question of corporations that are consistently putting profits before people, and I think Pat Buchanan has made that case, he's made it compellingly, and others are parroting what he said.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And what stands out in the results yesterday, in your view, about Dole's strength and weaknesses–

MR. SHIELDS: Well, I think–

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: –and including vis-a-vis Buchanan and his agenda?

MR. SHIELDS: There's no question. I mean, it was a sweeping victory for Bob Dole. It was politically, psychologically, arithmetically, any way you want to look at it, it was a sweeping victory. The Republican Party has come to an apparent consensus in state after state that Bob Dole is the nominee, and this race in most cases is over unless something happens to Bob Dole, or he does something to himself or makes a mistake, or Pat Buchanan can spring the upset somewhere, but he, he's starting to reassemble the Republican constituency. He still has a problem in reaching out, in my judgment, to what is a winning constituency so far, but he's got time, and the earlier–the problem with Pat Buchanan still being in the race for Bob Dole is this. Pat Buchanan is a phrase maker who is without peers, and when he calls Bob Dole a beltway bomb, a bellhop for the Business Roundtable, that stuff hurts, and it lasts. But it lasts. I mean, there's no about it.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you think that Pat Buchanan staying in the race will determine or p lay a big role in determining Sen. Dole's choice of a running mate?

MR. GIGOT: I think it is the one area of leverage, if you will, that Pat Republican has that can give Bob Dole trouble, and particularly on the question of Colin Powell. There's a big debate, ferocious, behind-the-scenes debate going on among Republicans about whether Colin Powell should be on the ticket. Most of it's speculative because it'll be decided in the end by Bob Dole and Colin Powell. But Pat Buchanan raises the threat of a potential third party run if he would do something like that, and that creates difficulty for the nominee, there's no question about it.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And the results yesterday did show some weaknesses for Bob Dole.

MR. GIGOT: Well–

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: He didn't do great among young voters, for example.

MR. GIGOT: Bob Dole's great strength yesterday was that, as Mark pointed out, he appealed to the breadth of the Republican coalition. He's somebody who can bring in the social right and the economic right, women, men. Older people went for him in much bigger numbers. I think he got two out of every three votes of people over 60. He's had a problem in the primaries with people under 44. He only got one out of every two of those votes, and you have to wonder if that is an implicit acknowledgement that the age issue is a problem not in the sense that he can't do the job but that somehow younger voters don't quite identify with him, and that's why I think you see the President and Al Gore appear in their work shirts and in computers and schools. They're trying to draw that comparison.

MR. SHIELDS: Last night, you'll notice, though, in his victory statement, he had young people, real young people standing–not sort of those Nixon, youth for Nixon types, with the perfect blond hair and blue eyes, but I mean they looked like real high school kids.

MR. GIGOT: Sure.

MR. SHIELDS: And they didn't have the blue suits. He's had too many blue suits behind him throughout this campaign. So I think that was an acknowledgement of the problem that we're discussing.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. That's all the time we have tonight. Thank you both.