While most of the Republican presidential candidates are butting heads in the middle of the political playing field, one of them seems quite content to stay well out on the right end in his drive for the White House goal posts. Pierre (Pete) du Pont IV is following a very conservative game plan. Here is a glimpse of his political agenda:
The Nicaraguan contras. Du Pont favors lots of aid, even from private sources.
Agriculture. He wants to return farming to a free-market system and phase-out farm subsidies over a five-year period.
AIDS. The disease should not be treated as a civil rights issue, but rather as a health issue. It must be contained with education and an emphasis on testing.
Drugs. He advocates mandatory drug testing for all high school students. Those with dependency problems get help, those that refuse to be tested lose their driver's license for a year.
Welfare reform. All able-bodied welfare recipients would be required to work for 90 percent of minimum wage. Du Pont's motto - ``No work, no check.''
Retirement benefits. Employees could elect to put their social security contributions into an individual retirement account in exchange for a reduction in their social security benefits.
Education and retraining. The government would guarantee loans to students and displaced workers seeking new skills.
Star wars. He supports research and deployment.
At a time when Democratic candidates are expounding on the evils of the trade and budget deficits, du Pont offers a contrary view.
``How could the trade deficit and the debtor-nation status of America be so depressing,'' he asked last week in a lunch with reporters, ``while ... we have created 13 million net new jobs? That's 20 times as many as the Japanese and three-to-four times as many as the Germans. Our unemployment rate is dropping, our inflation rate has gone through the floor.''
Pete du Pont knows his ideas make him look like the libertarian candidate of the Republican Party. He enjoys the distinction, saying that ``the fellows left out on the left flank are George Bush, Bob Dole, and Jack Kemp,'' whom he calls ``three peas in a pod.''
The former governor of Delaware scoffs at political pundits who say the GOP nomination is a two-man race between George Bush and Bob Dole. He is convinced the race is wide open, at least until after the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.
He readily admits, though, that he has to finish in the top three in both Iowa and New Hampshire. ``I've got to beat George, Jack, or Bob'' he says. ``You've got to beat one of them to show that your ideas are taking hold.''
Du Pont says he doesn't put much stock in the polls. He gauges his success at least in part by the acceptance of his policies. He is obviously pleased when he cites endorsement of his farm-subsidy phase-out by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
``You add up all that evidence,'' he says, ``... [and] I would say the campaign is not only alive and well; I'd say it's thriving.''