Pat Buchanan gave only half a nod to the figures that say he can’t win the Republican nomination, telling cheering supporters in Spokane he would fight for their issues in the months ahead.
“They cannot beat us on ideas and issues,” he told told an election-eve crowd of about 500 Monday night at the Red Lion City Center.
The television commentator turned candidate flashed a smile and a thumbs-up sign as the crowd rhythmically chanted “Go-Pat-Go.”
“Don’t worry, my friends, Pat is going all the way to San Diego,” he promised before ticking off the issues they held dear.
Young mothers holding babies cheered when he promised to fight any attempt to remove a tough stand against abortion from the GOP’s national platform.
“The Republican Party’s going to remain pro-life or it’s not going to remain my party,” he told them.
Men in dark suits and in flannel work shirts applauded when he railed against international trade agreements, booed when he mentioned the United Nations, the New World Order or the Tri-Lateral Commission.
“We want a country that is free, only under the sovereignty of God alone,” he said. College students and senior citizens applauded when he promised to “shut down the National Endowment for the Arts, padlock it and fumigate the building.”
Even the traveling news media laughed at his impromptu one-liners, such as when the lights flickered during his discussion of abortion: “We got G. Gordon Liddy up there, working the lights on us.”
There was no sign of reconciliation with Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, who will have more than enough votes to win the Republican nomination by the end of today’s primaries in Washington, California and Nevada. There was only criticism that Dole was “a question mark” who only recently took up causes Buchanan had long championed.
Some came because they were fervent supporters, others said they were curious to hear him speak.
Chad Sandquist, an 18-year-old senior at St. Michael’s Academy, said he believes Buchanan is truthful about his views no matter the political consequences.
“I’m a Catholic,” Sandquist said. “He stands for the same things I do.”
Few in the crowd agreed with Republican officials who want Buchanan to drop out of the race.
“I don’t think he should give up,” said Lorrie Ochoa, 27, of Spokane, as she rocked her 8-month-old son Domingo in a baby carrier. “I like his stand on moral issues. I’m adamantly pro-life.”
“He’s talking about the issues,” said Bill Johns, county engineer and one-time GOP congressional candidate. “If we don’t talk about issues, I think Clinton will be re-elected.”
Not everyone who came to the hotel Monday night agreed with Buchanan, however. Along Spokane Falls Boulevard, some 40 protesters waved signs accusing the candidate of bias against minorities.
Phyllis Andersen of the Peace and Justice Action League, said the former television commentator oversimplifies issues to whip some Americans into a frenzy.
Esther Karier, who held a sign saying “Can’t Stand Pat,” said she and her family sought political asylum in the United States 12 years ago from El Salvador after her father was killed by the military.
Karier, 34, said she resents that Buchanan acts as if he’s the “original American” and others don’t belong here.
“He thinks everyone’s name is Jose,” she said. “He came from another country, like all of us.”
Although the demonstration was mostly peaceful, there were occasional moments of tension. At one point, a Buchanan supporter asked protesters if they’d read any of the candidate’s writing.
“You’ll find you’re dead wrong,” he told the crowd. “He’s not a racist.”
Inside, about 60 people attended a $100-per-person reception with Buchanan while the hotel ballroom filled with the committed, the curious and the politically active.
State Rep. Duane Sommers, R-Spokane, surveyed the crowd and said it contained many who were concerned about foreign trade.
A former GOP county chairman, Sommers said he’ll support Dole as the party’s eventual nominee. But he’s a political junkie who enjoys listening to Buchanan speak.
“I couldn’t convince my wife to come, though,” Sommers said. “She’s home watching the Oscars.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo