METAIRIE, La. — President Bush and former President Ronald Reagan, afraid that a former Ku Klux Klan chief might be elected to a state legislature under the Republican banner, are going all-out to support his opponent, also a Republican.
David Duke, who is running a white power campaign under the GOP standard, is the front-runner in Saturday's election for the Louisiana House of Representatives in a small white enclave near New Orleans.
The middle- to upper-income 81st District has only 47 black registered voters among more than 21,000 whites.
In an effort to defeat him, Reagan has made a radio commercial and Bush has sent his son to campaign for Duke's opponent, longtime Republican activist John Treen.
In addition, Bush has mailed letters to voters, and top party strategists have been pouring money and advisers into Treen's campaign since the January primary.
Leslie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, described the endorsements by Bush and Reagan as unprecedented for a state legislative race.
Even Louisiana Democrats have jumped on Treen's bandwagon. Gov. Buddy Roemer said a victory by Duke "would send a horrible, horrible message" to the rest of the nation about what Louisiana stands for.
Black leaders in the New Orleans area have been somewhat more cautious about lambasting Duke, saying privately they fear their involvement would only help his campaign.
Duke's election plurality in January over six other candidates "scared the socks off us," said one state GOP official, who asked not to be identified. "This is 1989, for God's sake. That sort of thing isn't supposed to happen any more."