Bob Dole had endorsements from Alaska’s two U.S. senators and its most recent Republican governor, but it didn’t do him much good in the state’s straw poll.
The Kansas senator and GOP presidential front-runner finished a distant third behind Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes in results released early Tuesday. Buchanan polled 33 percent, with 2,991 of the 9,188 votes; Forbes took 31 percent, with 2,822 votes; and Dole had 17 percent, with 1,569.
Buchanan visited the state twice, took a dog sled ride in Fairbanks and spent about $80,000 on television advertising. He also pulled support from churches for his anti-abortion stance and from union members worried about trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“I think it gives our campaign the kind of momentum it’s looking for - energy, fire and enthusiasm in our organizations all across the country,” Buchanan said on CNN’s “Inside Politics” Tuesday.
Dole, campaigning in Iowa, dismissed the Alaska results as “not particularly significant,” and attributed Forbes’ success to heavy advertising.
Told he finished third, Dole said, “That’s all right. Forbes spent a lot of money up in Alaska on TV, and I didn’t get to Alaska because of the budget talks.”
Among the candidates farther back, Alan Keyes received 10 percent of the votes and Texas Sen. Phil Gramm got 9 percent. Keyes had 902 votes to 790 for Gramm. Lamar Alexander had 53 votes or 1 percent.
Other candidates had less than 1 percent of the votes.
Forbes, campaigning today in Derry, N.H., ignored Buchanan’s first-place showing, concentrating instead on his victory over Dole.
“It shows we’re gaining momentum, even in a caucus state,” Forbes said. “… It’s now a one-on-one race between me and Bob Dole. My beating him in Alaska demonstrates that.”
Gramm on Tuesday tried to play down his poor showing in the Alaska straw poll, noting he had chosen to spend nothing on TV ads and just $30,000 on radio.
“It didn’t make any sense … when you’re a week away from picking real delegates (in Louisiana),” Gramm said after a campaign speech in Washington.
Gramm, who put great effort into a string of straw polls over the past year, said, “I’ve won in a lot of straw polls, and none of them led to delegates.”
But before the balloting, Gramm chief strategist Charlie Black had predicted Gramm would beat Dole and get “nothing lower than second place” in Alaska.
One precinct out of 40 was not counted, but officials said the rural district on the North Slope would not have enough votes to affect the race.