WASHINGTON — Former television commentator Patrick J. Buchanan and New York developer Donald Trump stepped farther from their Republican roots and closer to a possible showdown for the presidential nomination of the Reform Party on Sunday.
Buchanan, who is expected to make a formal announcement of his plans to enter the Reform Party contest today, said in a television interview that he had made the decision "because the Washington elite of the GOP has left me."
Trump, meanwhile, told Associated Press that he will file papers today, changing his voter registration from the Republican Party to the Independence Party--the Reform affiliate in New York.
"The Republican Party has just moved too far to the extreme right," he said. "The Democrats are too far to the left. I believe the Reform Party can be the true centrist party. And that's very much in line with my thinking."
Trump said he has not decided whether to seek the presidency, though he has made arrangements to qualify for an early deadline to get ballot access in California.
Trump took the offensive against Buchanan on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press," declaring: "He's a Hitler lover, I guess he's an anti-Semite. He doesn't like the blacks, he doesn't like the gays."
The Buchanan campaign did not offer immediate comment Sunday in response to Trump's remarks. But Pat Choate, Perot's running mate in 1996, defended Buchanan.
Choate said on CBS-TV's "Face the Nation" that Trump "needs to learn not to delegate his reading and thinking, because Pat Buchanan never said that and doesn't hold those positions."
Buchanan planned to announce his campaign intentions today during a speech in Virginia. The television commentator told potential supporters he needed a forum to distinguish himself from the leading major party nominees.
"Issues which I believe are of profound importance to our nation's future--among them trade, immigration, right to life, our national sovereignty and foreign interventionism--will not be seriously debated in 2000 between the probable establishment nominees," Buchanan wrote in a letter seeking money for his new campaign. A copy was obtained by Associated Press.