Hard struggle ahead for Reform candidates
By Bruce Morton/CNN
October 26, 1999
Web posted at: 6:33 p.m. EDT (2233 GMT)
WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump, Patrick Buchanan and the Reform Party do agree on some things: reduce illegal immigration and get tough on trade. But on other issues, the two men are far apart and the party offers no formal opinion.
The Reform Party platform would replace trade agreements like GATT and NAFTA. Buchanan would be at home with that and Trump talks about being able, as a businessman, to negotiate better deals. Buchanan talks about avoiding international entanglements, while Trump would consider a strike against North Korea if it continues to develop nuclear arms.
The Reform Party is silent on many social issues like abortion. Trump and Buchanan are not.
"We need a new Supreme Court where only constitutionalists need apply," said Buchanan. "A court that will respect both states' rights and human rights and will begin to undo the damage done this nation by judicial aggressions, beginning with that abomination they call 'Roe v. Wade.'"
"I'm very pro-choice," Trump said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I hate the concept of abortion. I hate it, I hate everything it stands for. I cringe when I listen to people debating the subject. But ... I just believe in choice."
Trump says gays in the military "would not disturb" him. That's another social issue on which the Reform Party platform is silent.
So Buchanan and Trump would have things to argue about -- and candidates often ignore the party platform anyway -- but if you get the Reform Party nomination, what's it worth? And getting the nomination isn't easy.
The Reform Party is on the ballot in 21 states and not on the ballot in the other 29. To compete for the nomination, Trump or Buchanan have to get on the ballot in states which have a majority of the 305 electoral votes in those 29 states, and the rules for doing that vary from state to state. It takes a lot of volunteers or a lot of money.
If either got on those ballots, the Reform Party would mail the ballot to its voters, asking them to list first, second and third choices. They count all the first choices and if nobody gets a majority, then they drop the last place candidate and count his voters' second place choices, and so on, until somebody wins.
Wins what? Well, the Reform Party founder, Ross Perot, didn't carry a single state in 1992 or 1996. Independent Republican John Anderson didn't carry a single state in 1980. George Wallace won five southern states in 1968, and in 1948, then-Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond won four. But they never got to the White House. It's been Republicans or Democrats ever since the Civil War.
Reform Party? History says it's a long shot.