Uneasy Bush-Dole Alliance Bids to Frustrate Robertson in Maine
This state’s Republican Establishment, largely committed to part-time resident Vice President George Bush but hospitable to rival Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, was drawing its wagons in a circle Friday to fend off Pat Robertson’s challenge in this weekend’s GOP presidential caucuses.
Faced with an influx of first-time voters from fundamentalist churches, the Bush and Dole forces have forged an uneasy alliance to frustrate Robertson forays in delegate-rich areas.
Fight Over Voting Rules
Robertson supporters warred with Bush backers over voting rules Friday night at the Republican caucus in Portland, Maine’s largest city. More than 270 registered voters turned out, far more than normal.
State party chairwoman Karen Stram, watching the Portland voting, said statewide turnout could reach 15,000 or more by the end of the weekend.
“No question, we’re up three times at least” over previous years, she said.
Acknowledging that feelings were running high in the various camps, Stram said her job was “to be sure that everyone comes out of it feeling they got a fair shake.”
Organizers say that their primary goal is to win as many as possible of the 1,506 state convention delegate slots for their partisans. But party regulars also say the Bush-Dole coalition reflects fears that the state Republican organization could be taken over by Robertson’s supporters, a repeat of what happened in Michigan.
Sees Attack on Majority
John Solberg, Robertson’s state coordinator, this week charged that “the Bush and Dole campaigns are attempting to keep the majority silent in the democratic process.”
Solberg made his comments after the GOP caucus in Waterville, at which Robertson won a straw poll but came away with no delegates.
Participants in the straw poll split four ways, with Robertson leading with 57 votes, Bush 40, Dole 20 and New York Rep. Jack Kemp 8, Solberg said. But Bush and Dole backers joined forces in the caucusing to block Robertson from maintaining a winner-take-all plurality. The caucus’s 12 delegate slots for the state convention were awarded to the stop-Robertson combine.
Solberg said a similar deal was struck at the GOP caucus in Kittery last week.
Most of the Republican caucuses, which do not bind the state convention delegates, will be held this weekend, although state party leaders are not bothering to compile the results right away.
Cites Anti-Bush Groups
Campaigning for Bush, who has a summer home in Kennebunkport, Gov. John R. McKernan Jr. said that the vice president’s campaign was acting in self-interest to “maximize the number of delegates” it could lock up. He called Solberg’s complaint “amusing,” saying that Robertson organizers had themselves sought to build anti-Bush coalitions around the state.
“This is not fun and games,” said McKernan, Maine’s first Republican governor in two decades. “We’re talking about the next President of the United States.”