MANCHESTER, N.H. — Iowa voters may have crushed front-running George Bush's presidential chances, four Republican presidential candidates said today, but the vice president shrugged off his third-place finish in the first vote of the election year.
Bush lost to Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas and former television evangelist Pat Robertson in the Iowa caucus voting Monday night. Dole got 37% of the vote and Robertson scored a stunning upset by gathering 25% to Bush's 19%.
"I lost Iowa, now I'm going to win," a clearly embarrassed Bush told reporters as he stumped New Hampshire, the next test of the campaign that is only a week away.
"It is a new day. Iowa is Iowa, New Hampshire is New Hampshire."
But Bush's opponents were gleeful at his defeat and predicted that it was really a new day for them.
Pete du Pont, undaunted by his fifth-place showing in the Iowa GOP caucuses, said today that Bush's third-place finish means he is "mortally wounded" in his bid for the GOP presidential nomination.
"I think the vice president's campaign is over," the former Delaware governor said in a radio interview in Manchester.
"He's going to get some votes, but when you are beaten as an incumbent vice president of the United States by a senator who is for an oil import tax . . . plus Pat Robertson, I think you ought to be a little worried," Du Pont said.
Robertson said Bush may be unable to recover from his third-place showing.
Eyes on Dole
Similarly, New York Rep. Jack Kemp, who finished fourth, said Bush's popularity had peaked and said that Dole is now the man to beat.
Former Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr., who finished last, said: "The vote in Iowa demonstrates the vulnerability of the vice president in this race. The showing of Pat Robertson scrambles the prospects for a Republican victory in November."
Bush, however, vowed to keep fighting.
"I think (Robertson) out-hustled us and from what I heard just talking out there I think he did a very good job on that," Bush said. "So we've got to be sure we do the same kind of job and better, right here in New Hampshire.
"I was disappointed, but I'm not down. I guarantee you that. I'm going to win this nomination."
Still Aiming at Dole
Dole told reporters that Bush was still the man to beat in New Hampshire, where polls showed him before the Iowa test as having a 2-1 lead over him.
Dole, in high spirits after winning in Iowa, was asked by reporters in Des Moines if the Bush picture was fading.
"That's an official photo. It's a good picture," he quipped.
"I think we have a lot of work to do."
Referring to the opinion polls, Dole said: "Let's face it, I'm behind. I'm not the front-runner in New Hampshire."
But Robertson, who produced a last minute surge of conservative backers in Iowa, disagreed that Bush is the man to beat.
"I don't think his popularity nationwide is going to hold up," Robertson told ABC's "Good Morning America."
"I think it is somewhat of an illusion. He has been in the Reagan shadow, and once that shadow has been burned off, I don't think he is going to be a major contender."
Kemp predicted that Bush would lose in New Hampshire and "the whole Republican race is up for grabs."
Bush was up early today, shaking hands at a factory gate in Nashua and emphasizing his loyalty to President Reagan.
"I'm one of you because in this state there is steadfast loyal support for the President of the United States and I have that," he said. "When the going gets tough, I have not jumped away from the President for my own personal political gain, nor do I intend to do it."