Sen. Bob Dole declared on Saturday, “I smell victory in the air,” heading into Super Tuesday’s primaries. Refusing to back down, Pat Buchanan attacked Dole as a rudderless leader and Steve Forbes focused on Florida, searching for an elusive breakthrough.
“Where’re we going, Bob? Where are you going to take us if you win, Bob?” Buchanan challenged at a fairgrounds rally in Fairfield, Texas. “The Bible tells us where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Buchanan showed strength in Missouri, where Republicans started a caucus process that eventually will lead to selection of delegates to the GOP national convention.
When the counting stopped Saturday night, Buchanan had won 352 of the 1,161 delegates who will go on to district conventions next month where 29 of the state’s 36 national delegates will be selected. Dole had 240 and 207 were uncommitted.
Allen Keyes got 85 and Steve Forbes nine. Missouri party officials said it will be next week before it is known how the other 268 delegates lined up.
Buchanan called the Missouri result a “tremendously heartening development” and said, “We hope it’s a breakthrough that will get us some attention and revive our momentum.”
But Dole was upbeat as he began a long day of campaigning at the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.
Saying he was looking to win all seven Super Tuesday states, Dole reminded an audience of supporters - in which dark suits and ties were as prevalent as western garb - that he was from next-door Kansas.
“I’m your neighbor and treat your neighbors kindly,” Dole said.
But he didn’t have much kindness for one man at the rally who waved a Marine Corps hat and urged Dole to “say something about veterans.” When the man told Dole he hadn’t said enough about veterans issues, Dole shot back, “I’ve been a veteran a lot longer than you have.”
Proving his point, at an airport rally in Tulsa, Dole posed before a World War II vintage B-25 bomber, the type flown in 1944-45 in Italy where Dole was wounded. He said he was better qualified to send U.S. troops to war, if necessary, than President Clinton. “Nobody wants conflict. Nobody wants a war. But sometime it may happen,” he said.
Later, Dole told a rally in Biloxi, Miss., “Our mission is to unify our party, close ranks, and defeat Bill Clinton.”
Forbes, whose abortion stance has concerned conservatives, cancelled a scheduled appearance at a Christian Coalition debate in Miami after Buchanan refused to participate. Forbes has said he would like to see abortion “disappear” by changing people’s attitudes, not the law.
With his family at his side, Forbes visited Miami’s Little Havana and upscale Coconut Grove neighborhoods for some retail politicking instead, looking to gain support for some of Florida’s 98 delegates.
Forbes capitalized on an impromptu shopping mall photo op with a parrot to portray Dole as a politician who can’t think for himself. When the bird named Mango chomped on Forbes’ finger, he held it aloft, quipping, “It’s Bob Dole.” The parrot squawked and fell.
The publisher also asked Dole to join him for a half-hour call-in show to be broadcast in Florida Sunday night. “I’ll even pay his air fare,” Forbes said, echoing previous spurned face-to-face challenges to Dole.
Buchanan concentrated on Texas, although the candidate who gets more than 50 percent of the vote takes home all the state’s 123 delegates and polls show Dole with enough support to do just that.
“I know it’s an uphill battle,” Buchanan said of his nomination bid. “Look, I worked for Goldwater. I know what an uphill fight is.”
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: SUPER TUESDAY At stake in Tuesday’s seven-state sweepstakes - Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Tennessee and Oregon - are 362 delegates, or more than a third of the total needed to secure the GOP nomination. Sen. Bob Dole currently leads the field with 392 delegates, while millionaire publisher Steve Forbes is a distant second with 73 and political commentator Pat Buchanan has 62.