American Conservative Union Chairman David A. Keene accused Sen. Bob Dole yesterday of wanting to "demonize conservatives" as part of a strategy for defeating Pat Buchanan.
"The Dole campaign seems to want to do two things: co-opt Buchanan's economic issues, which we disagree with. And second, demonize conservatives," Mr. Keene said at a news conference, opening the 23rd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) with an unusual bang.
"We think this is both troubling and unacceptable to conservatives," he added.
"Dole has resorted to the rhetoric of the 1960s to run a moderate-vs.-conservative campaign," said Mr. Keene. "The aim is to isolate Buchanan personally, further to isolate conservatives and thereby, somehow, to put together Dole's winning strategy."
Dole deputy campaign chairman Bill Lacy said he and Mr. Keene talked twice by telephone yesterday, before and after the news conference. "David and I had a couple of discussions today, which I would characterize as not unfriendly," Mr. Lacy said. "He expressed his concerns."
The conference of several hundred conservative activists from around the country was abuzz with speculation and concern about the rift between establishment Republicans and Mr. Buchanan.
Many in attendence and one major speaker, Jack Kemp, expressed displeasure with Mr. Dole's having used the words "extremism" and "intolerance" to refer to Mr. Buchanan.
Republican National Committee member Betsy DeVos of Michigan, a CPAC participant, said: "It isn't part of the debate to be name-calling and to be negative." She said she will support whoever is the GOP nominee, "including Pat Buchanan, absolutely."
Grover Norquist, a GOP activist and president of Americans for Tax Reform, said the new Dole strategy only strengthens Mr. Buchanan. "It echoes the rhetoric of the left," said Mr. Norquist, who does not agree with Mr. Buchanan's endorsement of tariffs on imports from countries with unfair trade practices or advantages.
"Buchanan is for tax increases, only he calls them tariffs," he said.
"Buchanan got where he is because he was willing to take on social issues that conventional candidates weren't," said Jeffrey Bell, chairman of a parental-rights group. "Even on the economic side, where I disagree with him, I think he's at least talking to the middle-class squeeze. …