Republican Patrick J. Buchanan, searching for ways to prolong the political life of his presidential campaign beyond New Hampshire, told a major gathering of conservatives here Thursday that it was time for them to "take a stand and choose" between him and President Bush.
"We have taken our stand and we made our case and fought the good fight," Buchanan told the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual convention of conservative groups from across the country. "Now it is time for others to take a stand. Buchanan or Bush. It's a time to choose."
Buoyant after his unexpectedly strong showing in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday, Buchanan received an enthusiastic response from his audience. As he swept into the convention hall, he upstaged a panel discussion about tax cuts when its participants were suddenly drowned out by applause and rhythmic chants of "Pat, Pat, Pat."
Buchanan's speech, frequently interrupted by applause, was laced with the Revolutionary War rhetoric that he has affected of late to embellish his self-cast role as the Paul Revere of the Republican right.
"We need a new American Revolution here in the United States," Buchanan said. "We have to do to George I, the big government Republican, what our forefathers did to George III."
Bush, for his part, spent the day working at the White House after returning from a Wednesday campaign visit to Tennessee, one of several key Southern states holding primaries within the next three weeks. The President, chastened by his unexpectedly small 16-point win over Buchanan in New Hampshire, returns to the campaign trail today with a trip to South Carolina.
Bush aides also mapped out details of a trip next week that begins Tuesday in California and then takes the President to Texas and Georgia. "The President plans to visit as many of the Southern states as he can" before the approaching primaries, said Judy Smith, deputy White House press secretary.
Buchanan, in his speech, took note of Bush's pledge after the New Hampshire vote to campaign harder against his challenger.
Buchanan professed gratitude that Bush, who mostly sought to ignore his rival's jabs while campaigning in New Hampshire, had "finally remembered my name." He also said he was eager to debate the President on taxes, jobs, civil rights and foreign policy.
In a reference to one of the many television talk shows on which he developed his national reputation as a fiery defender of the conservative creed, Buchanan declared, "Welcome to Crossfire, Mr. President."
Addressing issues other than the President, Buchanan said that he was against "Japan-bashing" but that he was "sick and tired of gratuitous slurs" by its officials about the work ethic in America. And he drew loud applause when he referred to Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping as "Mr. Dung."
David A. Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, predicted that, although the lion's share of those now backing Buchanan will end up supporting Bush, they are hoping that his challenger's campaign will "send a wake-up call to Bush to get his message and his act together" before the fall election.
Times staff writer James Gerstenzang contributed to this story.