Pat Buchanan, the conservative commentator whose low-budget, high-voltage campaigns shocked the Republican establishment in 1992 and 1996, opened his third presidential race Tuesday by promising to "clean up all that pollutes our culture and to heal the soul of America."
In a related development, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, eldest son of the former president, announced the formation of an exploratory committee, the first step in a run for the presidency. Bush is the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination.
In Manchester, N.H., Buchanan outlined a set of familiar themes. The former Nixon aide said he would stand against easy imports, freewheeling immigration, abortion, judicial abuse and "the moral deficit" found in a "polluted and poisonous culture that has become the great enemy within."
New Hampshire is the first-in-the-nation primary state where Buchananan defeated eventual GOP nominee Bob Dole in 1996 and put a scare into President Bush four years before that. His first campaign swing of the 2000 election will take him to 13 cities in 11 days.
"It is our calling to recapture the lost independence and sovereignty of our republic, to clean up all that pollutes our culture and to heal the soul of America. And, to that end, I declare my candidacy for president of the United States," Buchanan said.
Buchanan also delivered a full-throated attack on the Clinton White House.
"This temple of our civilization has been desecrated, used to shake down corporate executives, to lie with abandon to the American people" and is "a place to exploit women."
In Texas, meanwhile, CBS News Correspondent Bob McNamara reports that Bush made his announcement on the lawn of the Governor's Mansion in Austin.
|Gov. George Bush (CBS)|
"I will set up an exploratory committee to begin raising funds and more formally explore the prospect of running for president," Bush said.
It was after his re-election for governor that Bush said he started thinking of a committee to measure the country's mood and raise the millions needed to run a presidential campaign.
"I do have a compelling reason to run for president. I want the 21st century to be prosperous and I don't want anybody left behind," the governor said.
Bush's wife, Laura, and teen-age daughters had been cool to the idea of life under a microscope, but are warmed to it now.
"What I was hesitant about was the ugliness that we all see of political life," Mrs. Bush said. "George and I lived through the 1992 election with his dad. It was a very miserable year for us and I dread the criticism of my husband."
Bush was the first Texas govenor ever elected to back-to-back four-year terms. And he is riding high in the polls.
Analysts believe the Bush strategy is to protect his lead by keeping off the campaign trail early on.
"It's being referred to as the yellow rose strategy: Staying in Austin, where he's in command of everything he surveys. And as long as his opponents are beating each other up, he can be the Marlboro man. And only when somebody looks like they might begin to hit him will he get out there and fight for it," said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University.
Bush said if he finds the political waters welcoming, he could formally announce his candidacy in June.