Sen. Bob Dole’s resounding wins in Tuesday’s primaries mean Washington voters will have few doubts about the eventual Republican nominee when they go to the polls in two weeks.
But neither Dole nor his chief rival, Pat Buchanan, will ignore the state’s March 26 primary, campaign spokesmen said.
“There’s still delegates at stake. We’re taking nothing for granted,” said Lance Henderson, Washington state coordinator for the Dole campaign.
Dole won’t have enough delegates to clinch the nomination before the polls open on March 26 - there just aren’t enough delegates available in the intervening contests.
But if he repeats Tuesday’s performance in the Midwest primaries next week, the March 26 primaries will put him over the top for the nomination.
A strong showing next week by Dole will probably force Steve Forbes out of the race.
“If Forbes pulls out, (the result) is such a foregone conclusion that even the Republicans who are for Buchanan will probably vote for Dole in the primary,” said Bruce Hawkins, state coordinator for the Buchanan campaign.
If the three leading candidates remain in the race, Washington state will be still be hotly contested, Hawkins said.
Buchanan said Tuesday he will continue to campaign, but for two days members of the Forbes campaign have hinted the magazine publisher might drop out.
Michael Schlitt, state co-chairman for Forbes, wants his candidate to stick with the race, at least through March 26. “I’m hoping the folks (at national headquarters) will continue to put up the good fight,” he said.
Forbes’ combination of fiscal conservatism and social libertarianism could do well with Washington voters, Schlitt predicted.
Buchanan may visit Washington state on March 22, Hawkins said. He’ll be making a pitch for the Christian conservatives, independents and Republicans that backed him four years ago.
Tentative plans suggest visits to Spokane, Seattle and Vancouver.
Dole may also visit the state in the week before the primary, possibly before or after a visit to California, which also has a March 26 primary, Henderson said.
The Senate majority leader is nearing the limit for spending money on his primary campaign and can’t advertise extensively in the upcoming primaries.
But a visit would generate news coverage - something campaign staffs call “earned media” - that can substitute for ads, Henderson said.
One of the issues Dole would highlight on such a visit would be international trade, Henderson said. Washington depends on foreign trade more than any other state and the Dole campaign is betting Buchanan’s comments on tariffs and trade barriers would alienate many voters.
Forbes promised a week ago to visit the state before the primary and “we call headquarters and bug them every day,” Schlitt said.