Tuesday, January 25, 2000

Bauer's hard work may be for naught

4th place in Iowa isn't good enough

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        On Monday, around 9 a.m., presidential candidate Gary Bauer will be in New Hampshire flipping pancakes.

        He's one of the scheduled participants in the Bisquick Pancake Presidential Primary Flip-Off, an event that sounds like it could be about middle fingers instead of flapjacks.

        But before he takes to the griddle at Manchester's National Guard Armory, he'll make a 7:30 a.m. stop to shake hands and have a bite at a Dunkin Donuts restaurant.

        Later, there's lunch with the Manchester Rotary, a speech at Franklin Pierce Law School in Concord and a 9 p.m. radio interview back in Manchester.

        Welcome to a day in the life on the presidential campaign trail.

        Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, speeches, interviews, staged events, debates, forums, parades, whatever. It can be New Hampshire, the site of the nation's first primary next month, or Iowa, where that state's caucuses were held Monday.

        “When I got in this I said I'd work as hard, or harder, than any candidate in the race,” Mr. Bauer said during a Veterans Day visit to his native Newport last year.

        That is a campaign promise he has lived up to.

        Each day his aggressive staff faxes out a schedule of Mr. Bauer's events, be it a Dubuque County March for Life in Iowa or a speech to the Nashua Chamber of Commerce in New Hampshire.

        Mr. Bauer usually makes at least four or five stops a day, sometimes more. He seems to always pop up on the Sunday morning and weeknight cable news/talk shows like Meet the Press and Hardball With Chris Matthews.

        The effort has paid off as far as people getting to know who Gary Bauer is.

        Even though he served in Ronald Reagan's administration and became one of the nation's leading spokesmen on socially conservative causes as head of the Family Research Council in Washington, few knew of Mr. Bauer when he jumped into the GOP presidential primary last April.

        “He's made a name for himself, there's no doubt about that,” said Stuart Rothenberg, the editor and publisher of a political newsletter in Washington.

        “People know who he is. But that doesn't mean they are going to vote for him in Iowa or New Hampshire or anyplace else.”


        Because while Mr. Bauer's cholesterol count may be going up with all those pancake breakfasts and doughnut shops, his standing in the polls isn't.

        Despite some solid conservative credentials, a top-flight, grass-roots team in Iowa, more than $10 million in campaign spending, a incredible work ethic learned from his janitor father and a demeanor that has gone from distant and a bit icy to mostly likeable, Mr. Bauer could soon be facing the end of his run for the White House.

        “He probably won't be around much longer than New Hampshire,” predicted University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

        “The Bauer juggernaut just hasn't caught on,” said a sarcastic Mr. Sabato.

        Social conservatives like Mr. Bauer have traditionally fared well in the Iowa caucuses. (Remember Pat Robertson in 1988?)

        And the candidate was counting on a good showing in the Hawkeye State to give him momentum heading into New Hampshire next week.

        But with 92 percent of precincts counted in Iowa Monday night, George W. Bush had 41 percent, Steve Forbes 30 percent, radio talk show host and fellow social conservative Alan Keyes 14 percent and Mr. Bauer 9 percent.

        These results probably won't put him in the long-range hunt for the White House, and that has got to be frustrating for Mr. Bauer and his faithful following.

        Mr. Forbes throws a lot of money around, but he's also a bit of a social conservative charlatan. Four years ago when he ran for president, he stayed away from and even dissed the conservative anti-abortion wing of the Republican Party.

        Hear him talk now and it's like listening to the pope when it comes to abortion. Mr. Forbes has courted the far right hard in this race, and that more than anything has cut into Mr. Bauer's support.

        Mr. Bauer's come a long way in this campaign, staying in the race longer than pols who are better known and more experienced, like Elizabeth Dole, Dan Quayle and Lamar Alexander.

        But it's hard not to believe the Bauer campaign is close to running out of gas.

        On Sunday morning, Mr. Bauer addressed a Pro-Life Breakfast event at Wader's Restaurant in Iowa.

        Is it ironic the event was held in a city named Waterloo?

        Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics for The Kentucky Enquirer. He can be reached at 578-5581, or (502) 875-7526 in Frankfort, or by e-mail at crowleys@cinci.infi.net.