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CAMPAIGN '96 / REPUBLICANS : Logistic Demands of Primaries in Next 2 Weeks Favor Dole

Politics: Kansas senator has funding, endorsements and organization to cover broad ground as states from Maine to Arizona hold upcoming contests.

February 21, 1996|JOHN M. BRODER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Military officers like to say that amateurs study strategy--experts study logistics.

While the extremely close finish Tuesday in New Hampshire allowed Patrick J. Buchanan to claim success, and Lamar Alexander to cite at least a moral victory, the Republican nominating process is a long campaign with but one purpose: accumulating enough delegates to win on the first ballot at the national convention in August in San Diego.

And that has always been the single-minded goal of the well-financed, richly endorsed and painstakingly organized march of Dole, the Senate Majority Leader.

The Republican campaign now enters a two-week period in which more than 400 of the 996 delegates needed to secure the nomination will be chosen in a series of contests from Arizona to Maine.

The logistic challenges of the coming battles favor Dole virtually everywhere.

Only Dole is planning a major effort in every state; the others are "cherry-picking," hoping to win enough of the contests to keep their candidacies credible and their donors' wallets open.

Indeed, in New York, which holds its primary on March 7, Dole and magazine publisher Steve Forbes are the only candidates on the ballot in most places. Because of the state's arcane ballot-access laws, Dole was able to keep conservative commentator Patrick J. Buchanan off the ballot in all but a few congressional districts. Former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander did not even try to get into the New York race. The result should guarantee Dole the lion's share of the state's 102 delegates--a fair chunk of the 996 needed to win the nomination.

Despite Alexander's impressive showing in New Hampshire, he faces raising a substantial amount of cash quickly to keep his challenge alive as the campaign heads into a period when as many as nine states will conduct balloting on a single day.

The difficulty of that task was driven home to Alexander this week when he fell far short of the $1.25-million fund-raising goal he set after his third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses last week.

Asked if Alexander's campaign has any money in the bank, Leo J. Hindery, the campaign's national finance co-chairman and a cable television entrepreneur based in San Francisco, said: "Nah. Nah. It takes success, to be frank, to raise money." Alexander's aides, he added, are hopeful that his New Hampshire finish will quickly lead to more cash.

Analysts say the fallow period is typical, even for a "hot" candidate.

"We've learned that there's a three- to four-week lag time between an underdog winning in Iowa or New Hampshire and turning that into serious money," said election analyst Charles Cook, publisher of the Cook Political Report in Washington.

Such a delay is why it is critical to raise so much money during nonelection years. "It is very difficult to capitalize and to keep your winning streak going, especially with the compressed primary calendar this year," Cook said.

Buchanan confronts money problems as well as organizational weakness in many of the next contests. But his has always been a hand-to-mouth insurgency.

Buchanan's campaign chairman, his sister Angela "Bay" Buchanan, said Monday that the campaign had raised $700,000 in the past week on the strength of Buchanan's surprise second-place finish in Iowa.

"We're going south. We're going west. Our issues are even stronger there. We will beat him [Dole]," she said on the CNN program "Larry King Live" Monday night.

She acknowledged that Dole had the weight of the Republican establishment behind him and a formidable organization beneath him in almost every state. But message will defeat money every time, she asserted.

"They have everything except a candidate that really excites their supporters," she said. "That's their problem."

The candidates planned to fan out today to the Dakotas, Arizona and South Carolina, which hold their balloting in the next 10 days.

The most decisive of those is almost certain to be South Carolina, which votes on March 2.

"South Carolina has always been a showdown for everybody," said a top Dole campaign official. The state should serve as a forecast of each candidate's strength in the South, which is the largest center of GOP strength. "South Carolina is the big enchilada."

But first the contest will be fought in Delaware, the Dakotas and Arizona on Tuesday.

All candidates except Forbes have stayed out of Delaware, which scheduled its primary to steal some of New Hampshire's traditional thunder. However, all of them are on the ballot, so Delaware could provide a sense of Forbes' strength or weakness after New Hampshire.

Buchanan, running a shoestring operation, is planning stops today in New York and the Dakotas (where he has a "photo-op" planned at Mt. Rushmore), then plans to campaign extensively in Arizona.

Although he has only a skeletal organization in Arizona, he is attracting religious conservatives there, as well as gun owners and anti-abortion voters, according to University of Arizona political scientist Margaret Kenski.

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