Pat Robertson: Bush has 'blown a major lead'
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Criticizing the Republican presidential campaign as unfocused, Pat Robertson, founder and president of the Christian Coalition, said Sunday that George W. Bush has "blown a major lead" in the race for the White House and risks losing unless he "comes out swinging like a fighter" against Democrat Al Gore.
Speaking on CBS' Face The Nation, Robertson called the margin between the two candidates "razor thin" and said Bush had done little in recent weeks to energize his conservative base. He noted that the Republican candidate failed to appear at the coalition's convention in Washington, sending a videotaped message Saturday instead.
"They figure they've got the conservative base locked up and they don't have to worry about it," Robertson said. "So the play is to the independents, the swing voters .... It's a dangerous strategy just to ignore your base, especially to play like something you're not."
He dismissed the Republican National Convention this summer as "Democrat lite" and suggested that the party was ashamed of some of its conservative lawmakers.
"We were sort of hiding the congressmen," Robertson said. "They wouldn't let Dick Armey and people like that get on the platform." Armey, R-Texas, is the House majority leader.
Robertson faulted Bush for engaging Gore on issues such as Medicare and prescription drug benefits for senior citizens.
"That really doesn't electrify the people in this country, I believe," he said.
Robertson called on Bush to "come on tough" against Gore in the coming weeks and clearly delineate differences with the Democrat.
"He's got to come out swinging like a fighter," Robertson said. "And if he doesn't do it, if he continues this sort of be-nice sort of approach, I think he's gonna lose."
Robertson's harsh assessment came as Bush and Gore holed up with their respective advisers in preparation for Tuesday's presidential debate in Boston. Bush was at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, while Gore was staying in Sarasota, Florida.
"He has blown a major lead, and the campaign has lost focus in these last several weeks," Robertson said of Bush. "And people keep saying, 'Will he please get back on message?'"