Monday, November 22, 1999

Bauer getting recognition as other hopefuls drop out


Claiming GOP's conservative arm

BY PATRICK CROWLEY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Gary Bauer announced his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination in April at his alma mater, Newport High School.
(File photo)
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        NEWPORT — Newport native Gary Bauer has raised $10 million for his Republican presidential campaign, outlasted better known candidates like Dan Quayle and Elizabeth Dole, and is being covered by the national press.

        But in the off-center whirl of national politics, Mr. Bauer knew he had hit the big time in September when there were published reports of rumors that he was having an affair with a young staffer.

        Mr. Bauer, a 53-year-old Newport high school graduate making his first run for public office, vehemently denied having an extramarital affair.

        Even the most skeptical political pundits had a difficult time believing that Mr. Bauer — one of the nation's leading social conservatives and a devout Christian father of three — would cheat on his wife with a 20-something female staffer.

        Political watchers were sure an opponent of Mr. Bauer's planted the rumor in the first place and that the mud-slinging was an acknowledgement of the candidate's growing clout among Republican presidential hopefuls.

        “If someone goes negative, it shows they view their opponent as a serious candidate in one form or another,” said John Lapp, the top aide to Democratic U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas of Boone County and a veteran campaigner.

        “And I think Gary Bauer has shown himself to be a credible candidate with every right to claim the social conservative mantle in the Republican Party,” he said.

        Seven months ago, when Mr. Bauer returned to an nounce his presidential campaign at his alma mater of Newport High School, there was speculation that his campaign would not last until the end of the year.

        But with the first primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire just three months away, it isn't a stretch to ponder that Mr. Bauer could still be in the race well into the spring and possibly beyond.

        He won't be the next president, Washington political veterans agree. But Mr. Bauer will have a powerful impact on the Republican Party that will last well beyond Election Day.

        “He's a candidate for president, but not really a contender,” said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Report, a Washington political newsletter.

        “But he is having an effect on this election, and will continue to be a factor after this election,” he said.

        Mr. Bauer's conservative, faith-based politics of opposing abortion, putting prayer back in schools and hammering Hollywood for violence in movies and television gives him a platform within the Republican Party.

        “There is always going to have to be somebody in the Republican Party who brings those conservative issues to the table,” said Marc Wilson, a Northern Kentucky Republican political and media consultant.

        Mr. Bauer made a name for himself as a soldier in the social conservative movement, first as President Reagan's domestic policy adviser and later as head of the Family Research Council.

        The departure of other Republicans from the primary field has helped Mr. Bauer's candidacy within the party. Mr. Quayle, the former vice president, is out of the race, while conservative Pat Buchanan has fled the GOP for the Reform Party.

        “Social conservatives are looking for a spokesman, someone who represents their point of view,” Mr. Rothenberg said. “Gary Bauer is thoughtful and articulate, and fills that void.”

        Multimillionaire Steve Forbes and GOP front-runner George W. Bush have far more money to spend than Mr. Bauer. He has raised $10 mil lion, a near pittance compared with the $60 million raised by Mr. Bush and the millions at Mr. Forbes' disposal, but a significant amount for a candidate who doesn't attract money from the big-dollar wing of the party.

        “That's the surprise of this whole thing,” Mr. Bauer said during a Veterans' Day visit to Newport 10 days ago. “Seven months ago there were 15 of us (in the GOP primary), and it's down to six.”

        Mr. Bauer has become something of a media darling, an underdog who is quotable, easy to interview and not afraid to challenge Mr. Bush, Mr. Forbes or anyone else in the primary field.

        A slight man who stands 5- foot-6 and bears a resemblance to the 1940s and '50s film noir character actor Peter Lorre, Mr. Bauer can joke about his unremarkable — some say unpresidential — appearance.

        “Surprisingly, we're picking up a lot of Elizabeth Dole's supporters,” he said. “I've got the highest percentage of female donors.

        “I think it's because I talk about the family and because I'm pro-life.”

        He has been profiled a number of times in the national media, including stories in The New York Times and Washington Post, and is a frequent guest on the Sunday morning and cable news TV talk shows.

        “He may be the best debater of the Republican bunch,” Mr. Rothenberg said. “He's smart, he knows how to do TV, and he can pick apart an argument. That's a skill he won't lose after the election.”

        University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato gives Mr. Bauer no chance of winning the nomination but said he can capitalize on his primary campaign.

        “Running a losing presidential campaign has worked for Pat Buchanan, it's worked for Jesse Jackson,” he said. “Lots of people have made a name for themselves in the television lineup after a campaign is over.

        “Because he sure isn't headed to the White House.”

       



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