Ten Republican presidential candidates with divergent prospects hawked their wares Saturday before about 4,000 delegates to the first national conference of Ross Perot’s United We Stand America. But if any of them made a significant connection, it was not immediately apparent.
Conservative television commentator Patrick J. Buchanan evoked the most emotional response during several hours of rhetoric - leaving the podium to cries of “Go, Pat, go” from partisans in the crowd at the Dallas Convention Center.
But United We Stand leaders cautioned that the display of enthusiasm for Buchanan had more to do with the fact he is not an officeholder than with any intention to support him in the Republican primaries that will choose the party nominee next spring.
“They think he’s sincere and he’s not a politician,” said Don A. Torgeson, UWSA’s executive director in Illinois, “and that’s something they like.”
The UWSA delegates gave each of the candidates a friendly, perhaps even warm, response. But their skepticism about conventional politicians was reflected in the relative restraint of their reaction to Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. Dole used only about half his allotted 30 minutes of podium time to deliver a version of his standard campaign speech.
Dole’s speech was the usual smorgasbord of disparate material. As he does routinely, the Kansas senator talked about his experience in World War II, dealt at some length with what is happening in the Senate and argued for his long experience in government.
“Don’t quote me,” said a delegate from New England, “but he’s just the kind of candidate that made me vote for Ross last time around.”
The Republican candidates came to the conference with several objectives. They craved the news media attention turned on Dallas. And they saw the delegates as potential Republican primary voters who might go home and tell their friends about what they heard.
And, perhaps most importantly, the Republicans hope they can make themselves acceptable enough to the core of Perot admirers to help dissuade Perot from running again as an independent.