And They're Off

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BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA: The 1996 presidential race began Tuesday with Pat Buchanan and Phil Gramm battling for 21 delegates in the Louisiana state caucuses. Most of the GOP candidates stayed away in deference to Iowa Republicans, who were upset when Louisiana elbowed ahead of their caucuses on the campaign calendar. Gramm, who started his campaign last year by winning a Louisiana straw poll, hopes that by taking most or all of the delegates he could give his flagging candidacy some badly-needed momentum leading into Monday's Iowa caucuses. He has the backing of Louisiana's GOP establishment as well as the state Christian Coalition leader. But Gramm is facing a stiff challenge from Pat Buchanan, who has painted himself as the real conservative. "Any delegate we get away from Phil Gramm is a victory," Buchanan said in the midst of a last minute campaign blitz across the state. His efforts seem to be paying off: Buchanan recently won the endorsement of Louisiana's Governor, Mike Foster. Trying to downplay expectations, Gramm Tuesday said that he would be satisfied with taking only 11 delegates: "I intend to get up Wednesday morning, come to Iowa and campaign hard every day if I don't get one delegate," Gramm said. "But I'll have a little more bounce in my step, I'll have a little broader smile on my face if we win than if we lose."