This Tent Ain't Big Enough for Both of Them

  • Share
  • Read Later
Nothing like Pat's pitchfork to puncture a big tent. Decision time looms for the party that Perot built, as Pat Buchanan on Monday launched his latest march on the White House under the Reform party flag. "Let me say to the money boys and the Beltway elite, who think that at long last they have pulled up the drawbridge and locked us out forever, you don't know this peasant army," Buchanan thundered. "We have not yet begun to fight!" Buchanan, of course, has the backing of Reformís own "money boy," Ross Perot, but in order to get the partyís nod heíll have to fend off the challenge of another of gilded "outsider," real estate mogul Donald Trump, who joined the party on Sunday. That leaves the maturing third party to make up itís mind just what it wants to be.

"The Reform party has been this collection of people who are mad at the other parties for different reasons," says TIME Washington correspondent Karen Tumulty. Now theyíre having to choose whether to tint their anti-politics-as-usual credo with a conservative or a libertarian tinge: Trump is a fiscally conservative, socially liberal, pro-choice, free-trader property baron who's, uh, lived a little; Buchanan is a blue-collar-populist, isolationist hero of the Christian right.

Each of the major parties has an interest in the Reform party race. "The polls show that a Buchanan candidacy will hurt George. W. Bush more than the Democrats," says Tumulty, by challenging the GOPís hold on the allegiance of the activist Christian right. While it wonít spur any heartland GOP mutiny, a Reform campaign by former Republican Trump "will hurt the Democrats, according the polls," says Tumulty. "While Buchanan has some appeal among the Democrats trade union base, that would be canceled out by the damage heíd do to Bush." In other words, like the rest of us, the big parties may find the Reform party nomination race a lot more interesting than their own.