Pat Buchanan bounded onto the sweltering stage and before he began to speak, to claim his moment and what looked like victory, his people began to sing, low and then loud, “God Bless America,” and Buchanan led them, his voice raw and croaking, and the crowd went wild.
Buchanan’s people all knew “the cause,” as he calls his populist America-first campaign, with its tariffs against Chinese T-shirts and fences along the Rio Grande, would go forward “to the nomination … to the White House.”
“We’re going to recapture the lost sovereignty of our country and we’re going to bring it home,” he told his supporters, the Americans who are the “legitimate and rightful heirs” of the Founding Fathers.
Buchanan warned the crowd, sweating in the overfilled room, that the first enemy to be vanquished, long before Bill Clinton, was the “old order” of the Republican Party. “All the forces of the old order are going to rally against us. The establishment is coming together. You can hear them now. The fax machines and the phones are buzzing in Washington, D.C.”
They will fight us, Buchanan claimed, but “we are taking back our party.” Calling for more “troops,” he exhorted followers: “Do not wait for orders from headquarters,” he shouted. “Mount up! And ride to the sound of the guns!” According to exit polls, Buchanan voters describe themselves as somewhat or very conservative, and look to Buchanan as a man who “stands up for what he believes in.”
It is a view his campaign clearly shares. One of his New Hampshire campaign chairmen, Mike Hammond, said Buchanan was like David taking on Goliath. David as the rabble-rousing TV commentator, who hammered away on economic anxieties, against the obvious Goliath, Bob Dole, the favorite of the party establishment.
Once he is president, Buchanan promised Tuesday night, America would “not apologize for the fact that we will defend America’s borders … for the fact that we’re going to take control of our own national destiny … for the fact that never again will young Americans be put under U.N. command.”
As supporters chanted “Go, Pat, Go,” Buchanan sounded increasingly giddy with elation. “You know,” he said, “Pat’s just getting started getting going.”
“They call me names,” he said. “Somebody the other night called me a socialist. They call me the right. They can’t figure out where we are - left, right, New Deal. Where is that fella? Some strange creature from the ‘30s, no he’s ‘60s, the 1700s. We don’t know where he’s from.”
The crowd was ecstatic. Alan Horlick, a retired engineer who worked for the campaign in Nashau, was dancing the twist with his wife, Ann, perspiration pouring out of him.
“This is the beginning of a great movement,” Horlick said. “We old folks feel it. This is going to be a revolution.”
Immediately after his remarks Tuesday night, Buchanan was scheduled to board a chartered jet to fly to South Carolina, which holds its primary March 2. Later today, Buchanan will hop through North and South Dakota, where he will visit Mount Rushmore, before flying to Arizona later that night. Arizona and the Dakotas have primaries on February 27.
“I’m going to visit Mount Rushmore, and there’s a spot on that mountain I want to take a look at,” he said to appreciative laughter. “Then we’re going on to Arizona, where I’m going to conduct a couple of burials out in Monument Valley.”
Buchanan could be strong in South Carolina, a deeply conservative state and a stronghold for Christian voters, who elected a born-again Christian as governor. It is there, too, that one of Buchanan’s close allies and big contributors, the textile magnate Roger Milliken, reigns as a Republican kingmaker.
In Arizona, too, Buchanan will be a force among the Western conservatives and their fierce anti-Washington stands, particularly on gun and environmental issues.
Buchanan ran as hard in New Hampshire as he did in Alaska, Louisiana and Iowa - the preacher-populist with an economic counterpunch, railing against corporate greed, international trade agreements and his fellow Republicans.
Tuesday night, Buchanan closed with a call to arms against all the forces he sees arrayed against him. “We’ve got to buckle down and we’ve got to move forward. We’ve got to move forward with strength and courage and conviction and take what they’re going to deliver to us. We know what they’re going to do to us, coming at us every way.
“But you stay with me,” he told supporters, “say your prayers about this cause and campaign. I promise you, I will lead as long as I can and as hard as I can and as far as I can, until we drop the torch and someone else picks it up.”