Buchanan, Trump could battle for Reform nomination
October 25, 1999
Web posted at: 6:04 a.m. EDT (1004 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Pat Buchanan prepared to bolt the
Republican Party on Monday for the Reform Party, where a
possible challenge for that party's presidential nomination
awaited him from New York real estate mogul Donald Trump.
Buchanan, a conservative pundit and sometime CNN host,is scheduled to announce his intentions in a speech
in a Washington suburb at 10 a.m. Trump upstaged him Sunday
by renouncing his Republican Party membership to join the
Independence Party, the New York state chapter of the Reform
Buchanan did not comment on Trump's move as he met with
Reform Party officials in Washington. He said a Reform bid
would be a way of representing Americans whose opinions
aren't shared by either major party.
"If I do decide to run, my message will be that the two
national parties are failing America -- that they've really
become two wings of the same bird of prey," he said.
Buchanan's previous campaigns against former President George
Bush and Sen. Bob Dole are thought to have hurt the
Republican front-runners in 1992 and 1996. He has lagged well
behind Texas Gov. George W. Bush in surveys of likely GOP
voters in 2000, and he has complained as well that the
party's nominating process is slanted toward the current
His social conservatism and controversial opinions make a
Reform Party fit look uncomfortable. But should Buchanan get
the nomination, he might drain not only conservatives from
the GOP, but blue-collar, unionized workers from the
Trump, meanwhile, told CNN he will decide whether to seek the
Reform nomination early in 2000. A longtime registered
Republican, he said Sunday the party was now "just too crazy
right" and the Democrats "too liberal."
As an experienced businessman, "I'd make the greatest
treaties this country has seen in a long time," Trump told
NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
Reform split looms behind candidates
At stake in the Reform debate is a war chest of several
million dollars and a simmering dispute between two wings of
the Reform Party.
Party founder Ross Perot's presidential showings in 1992 and
1996 qualify the party's nominee for $12.6 million in federal
matching funds. Some of Perot's backers within the party --
1996 running mate Pat Choate -- have encouraged Buchanan to
bolt the GOP, while Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, the party's
top elected official, has met with Trump.
Choate said Buchanan's support of tighter immigration policy
and opposition to free trade make him attractive to many
Reform voters, while his conservative views on social issues
such as abortion would neither aid nor disqualify him.
"On the social issues, the Reform Party has a very
libertarian view," Choate said. "Its members are split
roughly 50-50, so the party takes no position."
Trump with his current girlfriend, model Melania Knauss
Outgoing Reform Chairman Russ Verney said Perot himself has
taken no stand in a possible Trump-Buchanan race.
"He wants the Reform Party members to be able to make up
their minds through a fair, open-minded democratic process
free of any influence from him," Verney said.
Verney said he would expect Trump to endorse the Reform
Party's platform and principles in any presidential bid.
"If he wants the nomination, he'll do that. The nomination is
not just showing up and saying, `Pick me, Coach.' It's a lot
of hard work ... It's not for the faint of heart."
Verney said he had not spoken with Trump.
"I placed a call to him several weeks ago, but he hasn't
called back," he said.
GOP reaction to Buchanan's exit mixed
Buchanan served as a speechwriter in Richard Nixon's
administration and as a spokesman for Ronald Reagan's. But a
recent book on international policy, in which he wrote
that Nazi Germany posed no military threat to the United
States the early days of World War II, has raised hackles
among many GOP leaders.
Reaction among Buchanan's fellow Republicans was mixed
Sunday. Some conservative Republicans, like fellow
presidential hopeful Gary Bauer, expressed hope Buchanan may
stay with the party yet.
"I hate to see Pat leave," Bauer said. I think it is better
for conservatives to stay in the Republican party."
But others, like Arizona Sen. John McCain, say Buchanan's
writings show he has no place in the party. Trump derided him
as a "Hitler lover" Sunday.
Former New Hampshire senator and McCain co-chair Warren
Rudman was more cynical in an appearance on CBS' "Face the
Nation" on Sunday.
"It's my view that he is running for the reform party
nomination for one reason and one reason alone: money -- a
great deal of federal matching money which he would get,"
Former President Bush, interviewed on "Fox News Sunday," said
that he holds no animosity toward Buchanan -- even though
many people believe Buchanan's 1992 challenge to Bush helped
elect Bill Clinton.
"You can't help but like the guy," Bush said. "I just hope
that he doesn't get all over my boys."
Senior political correspondent Candy Crowley contributed to