GOP presidential hopefuls take aim at Iowa
August 9, 1999
Web posted at: 5:51 p.m. EDT (2151 GMT)
DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) -- In the heat of summer in Iowa, one or more Republican presidential hopefuls seem likely this week to get a dose of cold reality.
Nearly 15 months before the election, some dreams of reaching the White House could die in the Iowa's straw poll Saturday.
Former Vice President Dan Quayle is in need of a good showing. He is running low on funds and needs to impress potential donors with a strong performance in Ames.
The same is true for Lamar Alexander. The former governor of Tennessee ranks last in the latest accounting of campaign coffers and has openly staked his presidential hopes to the state.
Alexander has spent the most time in the Hawkeye state -- 73 days since 1997. Multimillionaire publisher Steve Forbes follows Alexander with 52 days, conservative commentator Alan Keyes clocked 40, Quayle spent 39 days and former talk-show host Pat Buchanan spent 32 days in Iowa.
Conservative activist Gary Bauer is close behind Buchanan with 31 days, former Red Cross President Elizabeth Dole is next with 29 days and the late arriving Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah has visited Iowa for 12 days since 1997.
Front-runner Gov. George W. Bush of Texas is a relative stranger to Iowa, having spent only six days in the state. And Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is not taking part in Saturday's straw poll, rounds out the field with only three days there.
Buchanan, the hungry underdog
Buchanan is a familiar face in a familiar role: the underdog sharpening his attacks on the front-runners.
"Those Republicans, like Mr. Bush and Mr. Forbes, who have embraced the Clinton-Gore policy of appeasing China with most-favored-nation trade privileges bear equal responsibility for the Iowa farms that today hover on the brink of bankruptcy," Buchanan said Monday.
Buchanan's trademark is tapping economic discontent. So the farm crisis dominating the debate leading up to the straw poll is tailor-made for Buchanan.
"Look past those brimming silos of fields and corn and you'll see a harvest of heartache in the heartland of America," the three-time presidential candidate continued.
Buchanan echoes other Republican candidates in proposing to eliminate the inheritance and capital gains taxes on family farmer and supporting ethanol subsidies favored by Iowa corn growers.
But he breaks from the Republican establishment in proposing to abolish the International Monetary Fund (IMF) so U.S. taxpayers don't support farmers in developing countries.
Buchanan also supports repealing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and closing U.S. markets to countries that restrict U.S. farm imports.
But as Buchanan supporters try to line up support for the straw poll, the candidate can't escape questions about the prospect of leaving the GOP to run as a Reform Party candidate.
While Buchanan has used radio appearances to stress he's been a loyal Republican for 35 years, he won't completely slam the door shut on switching sides if the Republicans nominate Forbes or Bush, a man Buchanan says is a carbon copy of President Bill Clinton.
"Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton agree on most-favored-nation trading privileges for China. They agreed on the war on Kosovo. They agree on open borders for immigration," Buchanan argues.
But before it gets to that point, Buchanan says he thinks Republican voters will think twice about the early favorite.
He warns: "I believe that Mr. Bush is on a high wire without a net. And I don't think he's taken crisp stands on the issues that he should."
Dole: Slow and steady
The Republican Party's only female candidate began a week of intense campaigning Monday, with 20 stops scheduled before Saturday's straw poll.
Former Red Cross Chairwoman Elizabeth Dole's goal is to slow the momentum of front-runner Bush and his fund-raising success.
"I'm not distracted by that. He's raising a lot of money. But I think clearly your vision, your ideas, what you want to do for America, your views on the issues are key. And we'll have the money to be a viable, credible candidate," Dole said.
A stumble by Bush in the straw poll would almost certainly benefit Dole -- most polls show her running second to Bush nationwide.
Dole has shown she can draw a crowd and she's generated interest among women. But Dole plays down her gender, emphasizing instead her 30 years of public service.
"That's hands-on management, executive management, whether it's a department of 100,000 at the Department of Transportation or whether it's a huge Corporation like the American Red Cross that I ran for eight years," Dole says of her experience.
While she is running second in the polls, some wonder whether she would consider the second spot on the GOP ticket. "No way," says Dole -- she is in this contest to win.
CNN's Patty Davis and John King contributed to this report.