AUSTIN, TEXAS — PAT BUCHANAN made a big splash in small New Hampshire, but "this is Texas," says state Republican Party chairman Fred Meyer. "It costs a ton" to mount a full-scale campaign in a state of 17 million people and multiple major television markets, he says.
What's more, "this is Bush country," Mr. Meyer adds. A Texas poll last weekend showed that 81 percent of Republicans prefer the president, to 10 percent for Mr. Buchanan and 3 percent for David Duke. Bush's primary competition was more serious and better financed in 1988, yet he won every single delegate. "I don't think there will be a serious challenge at all" to Bush here, Meyer says.
That, of course, was Republican establishment doctrine in New Hampshire as well, yet Buchanan scooped up 40 percent of the votes in Tuesday's primary. And that's just for starters, says Terry Young, Buchanan's Texas campaign chairman.
"It was an absolute necessity that Pat did well in New Hampshire," Mr. Young says. "Now that he's shown that he has a real chance of drawing votes and getting his message out to the people, he's ready to go."
Backing Buchanan in Texas, Young adds, is the largest organization of any politician: 31 vice chairman and 400 to 600 volunteers in 27 cities. He denies press speculation that Buchanan had spent all his money in New Hampshire and has "nowhere to go." Even while working that state, Buchanan was growing his organization in Texas and other southern states, Young says.
On March 6, four days before the primary election, the candidate will visit San Antonio, the threatened General Motors plant in Arlington, and Dallas. A few states have primaries before Super Tuesday. "If he can manage to win one or two of those, I think he'll do terrific in Texas," Young says.
Meyer scoffs at that, and pokes fun at Buchanan's plan to launch his bid for Texas at the Alamo. "Everybody in Texas knows there were no survivors at the Alamo," Meyer says.
Meanwhile, the New Hampshire-crowned Democratic front-runner has almost no organization in Texas. "We have a very small room here in Waco where we take calls," says Jay Belew, the Tsongas campaign's Texas "contact." He says the campaign will soon move to "a large permanent headquarters for the next three weeks."
Mr. Belew says the campaign has 12 area coordinators in place, citing Austin as one of the most active. But Laura Wolf, the volunteer in charge of this city, says, "The Austin campaign is kind of in the beginning stages of getting organized. We're looking around for office space. We've had one or two organizational meetings."
Belew admits that the Bill Clinton campaign is far better organized. But he believes that New Hampshire, where Clinton took 26 percent of the Democratic primary vote to Tsongas's 35 percent, sent voters in Texas and elsewhere a message.
Maybe so, but Craig Sutherland, Texas media coordinator for the Clinton campaign, interprets it differently. "Considering the body blows we took over the past few weeks, I'm ecstatic" that Clinton did so well, he says. Polls only days earlier had showed a 20-point gap between Clinton and Tsongas, he says.
Ed Martin, executive director of the Democratic Party of Texas, says he doesn't sense that the personal issues that hurt Clinton in New Hampshire have eroded support from his vast number of influential endorsers here. On Monday, the Arkansas governor got the nod from the Texas State Teachers Association, the state's largest professional organization.
"This is a state that elected somebody governor who didn't answer a question about drug use," Mr. Martin notes. "I don't know how many New Hampshirites could ever have elected Ann Richards, but in Texas we can do some pretty surprising things sometimes."