Dole busses in support to boost floundering campaign

 

IN THE Pinkerton Academy hall, crowds yelled: "Bob Dole 96"; people waved heart shaped banners saying "Dole loves New Hampshire"; and the high school jazz combo played My Funny Valentine.

The Saturday evening rally looked like the prelude to the preordained triumph of Senator Dole in tomorrow's New Hampshire Republican primary election. But a closer look revealed just how stage-managed and phoney the event was, in contrast to the genuine exuberance of rallies for his most dangerous rival, commentator Pat Buchanan.

The Senate Majority Leader and the Republican Party establishment are so worried about Buchanan that they have begun attacking him as a racist, and have bussed Republicans in from all over the United States to boost his floundering campaign.

The loudest cheers in the hall came from a group of Albanian Americans from New York who support his Yugoslavia policy and had driven to the granite state in minivans to follow him around. They were supported by men like Mr Dave Dyer, fraud investigator from Connecticut, and Mr J. Eldon Yates, chairman of a Washington based Dole support group. In interviews they acknowledged that they had come in response to a call for help from party officials.

Senator Dole's speeches in New Hampshire, which has shattered his presidential aspirations before amount to little more than a "Barcus is willing" plea. "All my life has been a preparation for this mission," he cries. "Will you join me and vote for Bob Dole."

He accuses Mr Buchanan of being "too extreme". The Washington born commentator has replied with television commercials charging Mr Dole with increasing taxes five times and playing dirty tricks.

Mr Buchanan's protectionist message is popular with anxious, voters. He has a strong following from Christian conservatives for, his anti abortion stand. But many Republicans believe he could not defeat President Clinton in November.

A poll by ABC News showed 44 per cent of Republicans consider him too extreme to be a serious candidate. His campaign is in fact slithering in the snows of New Hampshire over allegations that he is tainted by association with racist supporters.

Republican opponents allege that in the Louisiana Primary two weeks ago, which only Mr Buchanan and Senator Phil Gramm contested, leaflets were distributed saying Republicans would not vote for Gramm who has a Korean spouse, because he divorced his white wile and married an Asiatic".

The Buchanan campaign has had, to sack a Florida woman activist, Ms Susan Lamb, for her associations with the National Association for the Advancement of White People. There is no room in the Buchanan campaign for people who are anti Semitic or anti Catholic or anti black," Mr Buchanan said.

Last week Mr Larry Pratt took leave as campaign co chairman because of allegations that he associated with members of the white supremacist group Aryan Nation. Mr Buchanan defended his aide, but yesterday new claims circulated that Mr Pratt was a contributing editor to a racist publication.

Mr Dole, who describes himself as a "common sense conservative" is clinging on to his lead with 24 per cent, followed by Mr Buchanan with 21 per cent and former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander at 15 per cent, according to the Boston Globe, The millionaire publisher, Mr Steve Forbes, has slipped to 14 per cent.

The main Republican beneficiary of the vicious feud at the top may be Mr Alexander whose ratings have edged up since his surprise third place to Mr Dole and Mr Buchanan in the Iowa Caucus last week. As the candidate de jour he may spring a surprise, despite being labelled a "Clinton lite" by opponents who compare him to weak beer.

Without apparent irony, Mr Alexander, accused by Mr Dole of being a "tax and spend liberal" attacked negative campaigning and Mr Dole. He said: "Here's Bob Dole ... He hasn't got one single idea. All he can do is run negative ads against me."

In contrast to the Republican mudslinging, President Clinton took the high road in a series of speeches in New Hampshire. Speaking to a wildly enthusiastic crowd in a high school gymnasium in Rochester, he said his opponent in the Democratic primary, where he is unchallenged, is cynicism and he urged them to vote tomorrow.

. Mr Gramm, who dropped out of the Republican race last Wednesday. appeared at a joint news conference with Mr Dole yesterday to endorse the Senate Majority Leader.