Republican Patrick Buchanan's slash-and-burn campaign for his party's presidential nomination wound up Monday with a prediction that he will "embarrass" President Bush in today's primary.
Buchanan, capping his 10-week GOP insurgency, traveled with his campaign from town to town in chartered buses also carrying dozens of reporters. At each stop, he found crowds of voters upset with Bush's slow response to the economic slump.
"All I know is that we've got to send Bush a message that he is screwing our lives up," said Christine Keefe, 40, a Franklin woman who voted for Bush in 1988. "He has this "let 'em eat cake' attitude."
The size of the message _ converted to Buchanan's showing today _ was the subject of much conjecture Monday. It is an old game among politicos to lower "expectations" so that any showing will seem substantial.
Ten weeks ago, state GOP chairwoman Rhona Charbonneau predicted Bush would get 75 percent of the vote and his main challenger 25 percent. Now, after 10 weeks of Buchanan's steady anti-Bush barrage, Charbonneau said it is likely that the former news commentator would get 35 percent and that the president she backs will get most of the rest.
Buchanan's campaign seized on the earlier prediction. "The chairman of the party says if George Bush doesn't get 75 percent he's embarrassed. We're looking to embarrass him," said Angela "Bay" Buchanan, who is chairman of her brother's campaign.
Another Buchanan aide, Paul Erikson, told the Associated Press that if his candidate exceeds 30 percent, "we'll be delighted and if we get 40 percent we'll be ecstatic."
What happened in the last 10 weeks has surprised the White House team and forced the president to campaign with an unexpected urgency. Barbara Bush stumped in the state Monday while Bush worked at the White House but conducted news interviews with New Hampshire and Boston television stations.
"Don't worry about trying to send some message. Let's put the person in that has the proven leadership worldwide and can move this country forward. That is my pitch," Bush told WMUR-TV in Manchester.
Bush campaigned over the weekend in an attempt to halt Buchanan's rise. He sat on a stool at one event, holding a microphone like television talk-show host Phil Donahue, and fielded questions from the audience. While never naming Buchanan, on Saturday Bush called the assaults "outright lies."
Buchanan has played to the state's alienated voters by repeatedly bringing up Bush's decision to abandon his 1988 "no new taxes" pledge. He questions the president's courage in fighting the Democrat-controlled Congress. And he says Bush is engaged in a "classic bait and switch" by backing away from his State of the Union promise to push for a $500 per-child tax cut.
Buchanan continued his assault Monday and said the tax cuts Bush is proposing are too small.
"He imposed $165-billion in new taxes, which got us in the recession, and now he's got these pathetic little tax cuts that he says that are going to get us out," Buchanan told WBZ-TV in Boston.
On a paid radio commercial, Buchanan tells voters: "Until I came up and announced my candidacy, those people in Washington behaved as if they did not care. Well, I care. . . . Those who did this to you have forgotten you and walked away from you."
In addition, Buchanan gets regular help from Democrats pounding on Bush and a daily dose of positive coverage from the conservative Manchester Union-Leader. A front-page editorial by publisher Nackey Loeb on Saturday called Bush "the Great Pretender" and said, "The man has never met a promise he didn't like."
Whatever happens today, Buchanan is ready to bring his campaign to five or six southern states, including a March 3 primary contest in Georgia. He also has plans to target a handful of Florida's Republican congressional districts.
"Tomorrow he (Buchanan) is a lightning rod," said Nick Manolis, 41, who came to a Concord diner to see the candidate Monday. "Then we'll find out if he's a president."