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Buchanan Shows Confidence in Attacking Bush

February 14, 1992|CATHLEEN DECKER | TIMES POLITICAL WRITER

DOVER, N.H. — In an allusion drawn from his parochial school days, Patrick J. Buchanan says his upstart campaign against President Bush is like "St. Theresa's against the Redskins."

On Thursday, a day after Bush blew into New Hampshire with the political heft of a reigning champ, Buchanan's campaign wore the telltale signs of an underdog trying desperately to move up field.

He high-tailed across southern New Hampshire in a dirt-caked van, selling himself to coffee drinkers in Dover, chatting up auto workers in Farmington and gabbing over the radio airwaves with countless others pondering Tuesday's primary.

Accompanying him was relentless criticism of Bush and a marked show of renewed confidence. Buchanan said he will take Bush on not only here, but also in the next round of primaries in the South.

Buchanan had ceded attention Wednesday to Bush, who traveled to New Hampshire for half a day of campaigning after making his formal presidential announcement. But on Thursday, Buchanan used the President's words against him.

"Did you all read today where George Bush is going to liberate the American economy?" said Buchanan, barely containing the edge to his voice as he addressed supporters at a breakfast. "Who's been in charge when the economy has been in bondage?"

Bush, he said, has a "tremendous . . . credibility problem.

"He talks about cutting taxes, and he's raised taxes. He talks about holding down spending, and spending has exploded under Mr. Bush."

The former television commentator also began his most earnest pitch for disaffected independent voters, who make up about a third of the state electorate and who are eligible to vote in either party's primary. He contended that the other major candidates, from Bush to the Democrats, are part of an Establishment alliance he disdains.

"Pat Buchanan," he said, referring to himself in the third person, "is coming through in New Hampshire as the only candidate who is something other than an Establishment figure in either party."

Buchanan's confidence has been buoyed by one of two tracking polls under way in New Hampshire. The Boston Globe daily survey showed the President slump somewhat from earlier levels of support and Buchanan increase slightly, for a comparatively close 51%-33% advantage for Bush on Thursday.

However, another tracking poll being conducted by the Gallup organization for the Cable News Network and USA Today had Bush holding steady at 62% to Buchanan's 28%.

Nevertheless, Buchanan was hoping aloud that a good finish in New Hampshire would energize supporters across the country, specifically in Georgia, whose March 3 primary will be held a week before the multi-state Super Tuesday primaries.

"If you do well here . . . we'll go to Georgia, and we'll be extremely competitive," he said.

Despite his assertion, Buchanan faces high hurdles in the South. His campaign put most of its organization and money into New Hampshire, and Buchanan acknowledged Thursday that he is only now beginning to organize in Georgia with the primary 18 days away.

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