Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan said Saturday that talk of a Ross Perot candidacy has boosted his own efforts to pressure Republicans into adopting tough-on-trade views.
“Ross Perot, if he is a candidate of the Reform Party, would hurt the Republican Party - undeniably,” Buchanan said during a tour of a yam and sweet potato packing plant 110 miles southeast of San Francisco.
“The fact that Ross Perot has suggested he may run has enormously strengthened my hand with the Republican establishment,” Buchanan said.
Speculation about the Texas billionaire’s political plans intensified following a string of media interviews last week culminating Friday with an appearance on CNN’s “Larry King Live.” He stopped short of announcing his intention to run, a second time, for president.
“The main thing is to get the best qualified person you can,” he told King, saying Reform Party supporters should select a candidate. In 1992, Perot received 19 percent of the national vote as an independent candidate.
Earlier, when asked at a campaign rally if he would consider being the nominee of the Reform Party, Buchanan avoided a direct answer.
“Some of my staff have been talking a little out of school,” about a third party candidacy, the conservative television commentator said. “There’s been no decision.”
“Ross Perot, who built the Reform Party did not build this magnificent mansion for me to live in it. He built it … for himself,” he said.
Buchanan added that while he and Perot “stood together against NAFTA and GATT, I don’t know what the agenda of the Reform Party will be beyond that.”
Throughout the day, Buchanan repeated his strong criticism of open U.S. trade policies with China and Japan, saying that fair trade meant being tough when those nations try to take advantage.
“China uses its American currency to build up its missile power. You’ve got to get tough on that,” he said. “Japan doesn’t deal with free and fair trade. They target U.S. markets to kill them.”
Sen. Bob Dole, who already has enough delegates to be the Republican nominee, also campaigned in California ahead of the state’s primary on Tuesday. Buchanan says he remains in the race to ensure himself and his followers a strong voice at the GOP national convention this summer.