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Buchanan Shocks Gramm in Caucus

ELECTION '96

By David L. Greene

The 1996 presidential primary season kicked off last night with conservative commentator Pat Buchanan shocking heavily favored U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) in the Louisiana Caucus.

The event--boycotted by several major presidential hopefuls including Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and publisher Steve Forbes--gave the GOP's right-wing candidates a chance to gain momentum heading into next Monday's Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary February 20.

"This is a victory for a new conservatism of the heart," Buchanan told the Associated Press last night. "We have put together a coalition of conservatives and populists I now believe can win the Republican nomination."

Buchanan took 13 of the 21 delegates at stake last night, while Gramm won only a disappointing eight. The other Republican participating in the caucus, radio talk-show host Alan L. Keyes '72, failed to win a single delegate.

Gramm's second place finish could be a devastating blow to his chance to win the Republican nomination as he was heavily favored to win in Louisiana, a bordering state to his home state of Texas.

In fact, Gramm supporters lobbied Louisiana to move their caucus before Iowa with the hope of giving his campaign an early victory before the pivotal New Hampshire primary.

However, the plan backfired as the fiery Buchanan, with the help of last week's endorsement by newly elected GOP Gov. Mike Foster, surprised election observers last night.

Visiting Professor of Government James W. Ceaser said Gramm can't afford too many humiliations like last night since his political career is at stake as well as his candidacy.

Ceaser, an expert in presidential politics from the University of Virginia, said candidates like Buchanan and Keyes are able to stay in the race longer since getting their messages across is as important as winning votes.

Angry at Louisiana GOP officials for placing its caucuses ahead of Iowa's, the traditional beginning the primary season, Republicans in Iowa urged candidates to ignore the Louisiana caucuses.

"It's largely a product of historic precedent that New Hampshire has the first primary and Iowa has the first caucus," IBM Professor of Business and Government Roger B. Porter said. "Both are resistant to any efforts to dislodge that."

Louisiana resident Ryan A. Hackney '97 said he was frustrated by Iowa's pressure on the candidates and defended his state's decision to nudge forward on the primary calendar.

"It's unfortunate that Iowa and New Hampshire have been so protective of their roles as the first states to go," said Hackney, a registered Democrat.

Hackney said tradition gives Iowa and New Hampshire no political justification for trying to block Louisiana from opening the primary season.

"Louisiana...represents a very important aspect--the Southern states," Hackney said.

All Republican candidates except Gramm, Buchanan and Keyes abided by Iowa's request to boycott last night's caucuses. And as a result, Louisiana has received relatively little attention from the media, which has been focusing heavily on Iowa and New Hampshire.

However, Ceaser said Buchanan's win last night will not go unnoticed, especially since little is happening elsewhere.

"There's no international crisis, not even a snowstorm," said Ceaser. "It will be significant."

However Porter, who teaches the popular Government course, "The American Presidency, downplayed the significance of the Louisiana caucus, because of the absence of the two Republican frontrunners, Dole and Forbes, and next week's Iowa caucus.

"What you want to do is do well in the primaries that help to build momentum," Porter said yesterday afternoon. "The winners in New Hampshire and Iowa will be greatly advantaged in subsequent primaries."

The majority of Louisiana's 30 delegates to the GOP's national convention in San Diego this August were determined last night, with nine more delegates to be selected in a March 12 primary.

Although the actual number of delegates are not particularly significant, Ceaser suggested that the decision by some candidates not to visit Louisiana could come back to haunt their party as a whole when national election time rolls around.

"When Clinton passes through, he will mention that these guys didn't show up for their caucuses," he said. "It will be remembered in November."

Last night's win by Buchanan followed his surprising victory in a January straw poll in Alaska.

In Alaska, Buchanan, not only beat Dole and Forbes, but also relegated Gramm, his fellow conservative in the race, to a dismal fifth place finish

Angry at Louisiana GOP officials for placing its caucuses ahead of Iowa's, the traditional beginning the primary season, Republicans in Iowa urged candidates to ignore the Louisiana caucuses.

"It's largely a product of historic precedent that New Hampshire has the first primary and Iowa has the first caucus," IBM Professor of Business and Government Roger B. Porter said. "Both are resistant to any efforts to dislodge that."

Louisiana resident Ryan A. Hackney '97 said he was frustrated by Iowa's pressure on the candidates and defended his state's decision to nudge forward on the primary calendar.

"It's unfortunate that Iowa and New Hampshire have been so protective of their roles as the first states to go," said Hackney, a registered Democrat.

Hackney said tradition gives Iowa and New Hampshire no political justification for trying to block Louisiana from opening the primary season.

"Louisiana...represents a very important aspect--the Southern states," Hackney said.

All Republican candidates except Gramm, Buchanan and Keyes abided by Iowa's request to boycott last night's caucuses. And as a result, Louisiana has received relatively little attention from the media, which has been focusing heavily on Iowa and New Hampshire.

However, Ceaser said Buchanan's win last night will not go unnoticed, especially since little is happening elsewhere.

"There's no international crisis, not even a snowstorm," said Ceaser. "It will be significant."

However Porter, who teaches the popular Government course, "The American Presidency, downplayed the significance of the Louisiana caucus, because of the absence of the two Republican frontrunners, Dole and Forbes, and next week's Iowa caucus.

"What you want to do is do well in the primaries that help to build momentum," Porter said yesterday afternoon. "The winners in New Hampshire and Iowa will be greatly advantaged in subsequent primaries."

The majority of Louisiana's 30 delegates to the GOP's national convention in San Diego this August were determined last night, with nine more delegates to be selected in a March 12 primary.

Although the actual number of delegates are not particularly significant, Ceaser suggested that the decision by some candidates not to visit Louisiana could come back to haunt their party as a whole when national election time rolls around.

"When Clinton passes through, he will mention that these guys didn't show up for their caucuses," he said. "It will be remembered in November."

Last night's win by Buchanan followed his surprising victory in a January straw poll in Alaska.

In Alaska, Buchanan, not only beat Dole and Forbes, but also relegated Gramm, his fellow conservative in the race, to a dismal fifth place finish

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