Gramm doomed after poll defeat

RUPERT CORNWELL

Washington

Phil Gramm's struggling presidential campaign has been struck a heavy, perhaps mortal, blow by his unexpected defeat at the hands of Pat Buchanan, the commentator and former Reagan speechwriter, in the Louisiana caucuses - the first votes which count in the chase for the 1996 Republican nomination.

Yesterday victor and vanquished headed back to Iowa, where the first major contest of the season takes place on Monday. But the credibility of Mr Gramm's bid for the White House has taken a hammering after his 62-38 per cent loss to Mr Buchanan, in a state next door to his home base of Texas, and where just a few weeks ago he had been predicting a clean sweep of the 21 convention delegates at stake.

Instead, 13 of them went to Mr Buchanan, proof of what he called "a new movement of conservatism, sweeping across the country." Such claims may be a trifle exaggerated after an event which was ill-organised and spurned by the other major candidates and attracted a derisory 30,000 voters, just 7 per cent of Louisiana's 450,000 registered Republicans.

But in American politics, it is results, not turnout, which count. However hollow, Mr Buchanan's win on Tuesday evening positions him as the leading conservative challenger to Senator Bob Dole and the publisher Steve Forbes, whose outsider image and massive negative advertising onslaught against Mr Dole have catapulted him into second place in the field.

But for Mr Gramm, survival is now the name of the game - in other words to finish at least in the top three in Iowa before the make-or-break New Hampshire primary on 20 February, where polls suggest he needs a miracle to break out of single figures. Mr Gramm is already short of money. Failures in Iowa and New Hampshire could drive him from the contest.

Though the immediate beneficiary was Mr Buchanan, who won overwhelmingly among poorer and religious right Republicans in Louisiana, the man who gains most may well be Mr Dole who, like Mr Forbes and the former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander, did not campaign there out of deference to Iowa's traditional kick-off role in the presidential voting season.

Of all the claimants to the conservative vote, it was the supposedly well-organised and well-funded Mr Gramm who worried the Senate majority leader far more than Mr Buchanan, considered ultimately unelectable. Now, says the Dole campaign press spokesman, Nelson Warfield, the Texas Senator's White House aspirations have been "boiled and peeled like a Louisiana crawfish."

Compounding Mr Gramm's miseries was his absence this week from a Senate vote on an agriculture bill of much importance to farm states such as Iowa. The measure failed to pass by a single vote - which will not enhance his prospects in Monday's caucuses.

Meanwhile, every sign is that as the key early tests approach, the loyalties of likely Republican voters are more fluid than ever. A new poll in Iowa shows Mr Dole ahead of Mr Forbes by 22 per cent to 14 per cent, but with a startling 42 per cent undecided. In New Hampshire the two men are neck- and-neck. However, both Mr Buchanan and Mr Alexander are beginning to creep closer.

In both states the pattern is similar, with voters unenthusiastic about Mr Dole but increasingly irritated by Mr Forbes's relentless attack advertising, a central prong of a campaign on which he has already lavished $15m of his own money. Unlike the multi-millionaire publisher though, Mr Dole simply must win Iowa, a farm state close to his native Kansas and in which he won 38 per cent in his last bid for the Presidency, in 1988.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
News
people
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones