With the Super Tuesday vote recorded, Bob Dole continues to pull away in his quest for the Republican nomination, but the partisan brawl is not over yet. Patrick Buchanan, the combative Republican extremist, vows to fight to the finish at the San Diego convention. Steve Forbes' fistful of millions allows him the luxury of staying in as long as he wants. So while it appears that nothing can stand between Sen. Dole and the GOP nomination, California voters may still be able to make an important statement in the state's March 26 primary.
The California primary was moved up from its traditional June date this year to give voters in the nation's largest and most diverse state a chance to weigh in before any candidate clinched the party's nomination. The June date was abandoned because, falling late in the primary season, it often left California with little say in the presidential nominating battles.
Despite the Kansas senator's steady progress, a dogged Buchanan refuses to quit. He rejects party leaders like Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) who have appealed to him to withdraw and let the party gather behind the front-runner. Buchanan says Gingrich should mind the House; he'll take care of the campaign.
Stubbornly defiant, Buchanan proselytizes with protest. He's antiabortion-rights, anti-immigration, anti-free-trade, antiaffirmative-action, a platform he carries from primary to primary.
Ultimately, he intends to force his agenda onto the GOP platform committee at the San Diego convention and try to wield veto power over vice presidential candidates.
As Buchanan presses the politics of resentment westward, California voters in less than two weeks will have the opportunity to reject a campaign based not on possibilities but on limits.
And while Dole--and President Clinton, for that matter--would be foolish to ignore the deep economic insecurities evidenced among some Buchanan supporters, Dole, the presumptive GOP candidate, must not overtly or covertly endorse the racial and gender-based hostilities so prominent in the Buchanan campaign.
Primaries Tuesday were held in seven states--Texas, Florida, Oregon, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi. That daunting lineup forced the candidates to zigzag across the country and spend millions on television advertising to reach voters who live more than 3,000 miles and three time zones apart.
The grueling schedule should force a careful look at a proposal by state Sen. Jim Costa (D-Fresno), who was the chief architect of California's decision to shift its primary to March. Now, Costa proposes establishing five regional voting days in presidential years, one each in the Northeast, South, Midwest, Rockies and the Far West. The elections would be spaced three or four weeks apart to give voters a better chance of judging the contenders.
Setting up this system would probably require an act of Congress, and even that might not persuade New Hampshire to give up its first-in-the-nation primary spot. A regional system would seem to make more sense for the candidates, and for voters who want to cast their ballots before it's all over. Buchanan intends to force his 'anti' agenda onto the GOP platform committee at the San Diego convention and try to wield veto power over vice presidential candidates.