Patrick Buchanan is living out the fantasy of many journalists who have watched politicians in action and thought to themselves, "I could do better myself!"
Three months ago, Buchanan was working in Washington as a columnist and television commentator, representing a rigidly conservative point of view on cable television shows such as the McLaughlin Group, the Capital Gang and Crossfire.
He decided that President Bush was betraying the conservative revolution begun by Ronald Reagan, for whom Buchanan worked as communications director.
So Buchanan joined the presidential race to send a message to Bush.
He had no idea how many people in New Hampshire wanted to send the same message: Pay attention!
New Hampshire has suffered terribly in the current recession. Its empty brick factories are symbols not only of hard times but of America in decline. Buchanan _ often called a bully, a tough guy or a pit bull _ clearly has been moved by the tales of economic hardship in New Hampshire.
He has an explanation for it: The president, he tells voters, has betrayed them.
In daily barrages for 10 weeks, Buchanan called Bush the biggest taxer and spender in history. He hammered on Bush's broken promise not to raise taxes. Bush's failings were not the result of faulty conservative policies, Buchanan said, but of Bush's refusal to be conservative enough.
Buchanan, 53, has never served a day in elected office. He portrays himself as an outsider, but he grew up in Washington (in a big Irish-Catholic family with an iron-fisted father) and has lived there all but a few years of his life.
He was working as an editorial writer for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat when he met Richard Nixon. Nixon became president, and Buchanan became a speech writer in the White House. He coined the phrase "pusillanimous pussyfooters," which Spiro Agnew used to describe the media, and helped out with the dirty tricks in Nixon's 1972 campaign.
Buchanan's writing has not mellowed. Although he denies it, he has been roundly criticized as racist and anti-Semitic. He suggested, for example, that Hitler was "an individual of great courage" and that creating a holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. was affirmative action run wild. He also has said that AIDS is "nature's retribution" against homosexuals.
But Republicans in New Hampshire likely didn't think about those things when they voted for Buchanan. They don't even want him to be president, they told pollsters. The loud-mouthed Buchanan was simply the best way they could find to wake up the president.
_ ELLEN DEBENPORT