Gramm opens White House bid

FROM RUPERT CORNWELL

in Washington

Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, armed with an unflinching conservative ideology, ruthless single-mindedness and - by his own admission most important of all - some $9m (£5.6m) in the bank, yesterday became the first Republican to declare his candidacy formally for the 1996 Presidential nomination.

The move, by a man who has been openly preparing for a White House run for at least two years, was anything but a surprise; such announcements are merely glorified photo-opportunities. But Mr Gramm did link it with a Texas-style superlative, an eve-of-declaration dinner in Dallas generating $4.1m, the biggest single fund-raising event in American political history.

Orchestrated with the precision of an old Soviet Communist Party congress and, with 2,800 guests, barely smaller, the gala featured a string of Republican luminaries extolling Mr Gramm from a rostrum under a huge gold- painted Lone Star and a phoney Presidential seal, combining into a Texan equivalent of the hammer and sickle.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, Mr Gramm's overall campaign chief, promised his man would be a winner. To back that assertion, George Bush Jr, Texas Governor and son of the former President, promised to deliver his state, the second largest.

Charlton Heston - film star, conservative activist and erstwhile Moses - meanwhile supplied the vision: "The promised land is in sight . . . I am proud to present the man who will lead us up the mountain."

At his formal announcement in his Texas home town of College Station, Mr Gramm again delivered his tax-cutting, anti-government message. America was at a crossroads; it could either face up to its problems or allow itself to be overwhelmed by them. "We Republicans are one victory away from changing the course of US history, and getting our country back."

At this stage, however, money is more important than words. "I have the most reliable friend you can have in political life, and that is ready money," the 52-year old candidate told the dinner. And his $9m war chest, far greater than anything amassed by his rivals, puts him solidly on course to garner $20m, reckoned the minimum needed to fight next year's highly compressed primary season, where saturation television advertising could be decisive.

As the gala proved, Mr Gramm's fund-raising talents are legendary. Unlike most of his peers, he enjoys that aspect of his job, proudly displaying to visitors a computerised data bank of more than 60,000 actual and potential donors.

But the supreme prize of US politics cannot be secured by money alone. Another Texan, John Connolly, spent $12m in 1980 and ended with one delegate at the Republican convention. Respected for his discipline and drive but comparatively little known beyond Washington and his home state, Mr Gramm trails far behind Bob Dole, the Senate majority leader and front-runner in the polls. Mr Dole will formally declare his candidacy in April. The former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander, the third certain entrant, will do so next week.

Mr Gramm is no orator; his slow Texas drawl is at best folksy, at worst grating and monotonous. Many believe that while his unadulterated conservatism may appeal to the activists who dominate primary voting, it will ultimately prove too much for the moderates who decide Presidential elections. He has also yet to undergo the ferocious media scrutiny awaiting any serious contender for the White House. Questions are already being asked about his draft record in the Vietnam war, in which he secured five deferments and never served, and about some of his business dealings.

None of his Senate colleagues would underestimate him, but few confess to liking him much. A phrase, "Gramm-standing", has been coined to describe his habit of stealing credit for the achievements of others. But he revels in his harsh image. "There is no give in me," he told the Dallas faithful.

Much also depends on the size of the final field. California's Governor Pete Wilson is mulling over a candidacy but his ambitions may have been tempered by a poll showing him behind Mr Dole and General Colin Powell - whose party allegiance is not known, let alone his intentions of running - in the affections of California voters.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
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: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living