For Republican presidential challenger Patrick J. Buchanan, Michigan was a turning point.
It was here that he had vowed to show the power of his insurgent campaign. Instead, it was here that his campaign conceded that unseating George Bush was a task outside of its reach.
"We're going to keep right on going," Buchanan told cheering well-wishers gathered at the Mayflower Meeting House for a post-election party. "We're in a fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party."
But after Buchanan left the gathering, Angela (Bay) Buchanan, the candidate's sister and campaign manager, said "it is clear that the nominee of the party is going to be George Bush" and that Buchanan would endorse and support Bush in November.
That, in turn, means there will be a new, tamer Pat Buchanan. There will be no more ads attacking Bush, she said. "The Buchanan campaign will not be doing anything we feel will be harming the chances of George Bush in the general election," she said.
At the same time, Buchanan will keep campaigning, apparently aiming to build a base of support within the party that could strengthen his hand if he runs again in 1996.
Buchanan said he would remain in the race until the party convenes in Houston this summer. He said he was making plans for campaign appearances in Connecticut, scene of the next primary.
"If we're not in that convention hall in Houston, there'll be the wildest convention you ever saw right down the street, and we'll be holding it," Buchanan told his supporters.
The loss in Michigan was a major setback. This state, more than Illinois, which also rejected Buchanan's campaign Tuesday, was where campaign officials had placed much of their hope of embarrassing the President by repeating Buchanan's 37% showing in New Hampshire.
Buchanan began his last campaign day in Michigan at St. Joseph's Church, seeking to have news cameras record him shaking hands with supporters at a polling site.
But, in an embarrassing moment that foreshadowed the day's voting outcome, Buchanan, who is registered to vote in Virginia, was asked to leave. Apparently no one had told him it was illegal for a non-voting candidate to stand around inside the place where voters are casting secret ballots.
During the week leading up to the primary, Buchanan promised that, if elected, his Administration would lower taxes and protect U.S. products from foreign competition--messages tailored to appeal to middle-class workers who might be disenchanted with White House policies and worried about the impact of foreign trade on their jobs.
But the Buchanan message never grabbed the voters, who apparently reacted with anger after a series of Bush campaign commercials made an issue of the fact that Buchanan had purchased a German-made Mercedes-Benz automobile for his wife, Shelley, and had called an American-built Cadillac "a lemon."
Many of Buchanan's backers in Michigan prepared to rally behind the President.
Al Schmidt, a 41-year-old school teacher in Hartford, Mich., said he attended a recent Buchanan campaign event because he liked the candidate's "America first" platform and he resented Bush's failure to keep his 1988 "no-new-taxes" pledge.
Schmidt said it was "clear to me" that Buchanan would not get elected this year. Still, he promised to vote for him in the primary as a show of support for his trying again in 1996.
"Maybe not in '92," said Schmidt. "But if enough people show enough support, maybe he'll get in there in '96."