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Bauer vows to fight on despite long odds

Expresses delight at spectacle of early morning pancake pratfall

By IAN CHRISTOPHER McCALEB/CNN

January 31, 2000
Web posted at: 4:09 p.m. EST (2109 GMT)

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) Despite ominous poll numbers and a possible last-place finish in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, conservative activist Gary Bauer pledged Monday to continue his campaign through the summer's Republican National Convention.

Bauer, running fifth in a Republican field of five despite nonstop efforts since announcing his candidacy last fall, conducted a series of radio and television interviews in the southern portion of the Granite State and nearby Boston on Monday. It was part of an intense effort to disseminate his message with just hours to go before New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

And by early afternoon, a grinning, energetic Bauer seemed strangely energized by a potentially embarrassing and injurious incident involving a frying pan, an airborne pancake, and a four-foot stage.

While appearing Monday morning at Manchester's National Guard Armory for the "Bisquick Pancake Presidential Primary Flip-Off," Bauer miscalculated the trajectory of his 5-foot, 6-inch frame as he stepped backward on an elevated stage to retrieve a pancake he had just flipped into the air.

The pancake soared several feet toward the ceiling, but arched behind Bauer, who fell off the stage as he tried to position himself underneath the errant flapjack. He landed on his arm, but managed to leap back to his feet with the pancake nestled securely back in its pan.

To hear Bauer describe the incident to reporters in the early afternoon, the unintended bit of slapstick -- which he acknowledged could go down as one of the most memorable on-camera moments of this New Hampshire primary -- may have been the best thing to happen to his campaign in days.

Spoofing a well-known credit card television advertising campaign, a beaming Bauer, who was preparing to address a Manchester Rotary Club luncheon, said to the handful of reporters on hand: "Cost of spatula and skillet, $32. Candidate falling off platform: Priceless."

"I've made big news today," he later told 45 dining Rotarians. "I was the Ken Griffey of the presidential candidates. I dove into the dugout to catch my pancake."

Texas Gov. George W. Bush also appeared at the pancake flip-off. According to Bauer, Bush caught his pancake, so Bauer was not going to leave the armory without successfully pitching and catching his own.

"That guy already has all the money," Bauer joked.

But a truth is often concealed in a joke, as the tired old saying goes. Bauer is far behind Bush in the money and national recognition departments. He is far behind Arizona Sen. John McCain in the esteem of Granite State voters, and he trails publisher Steve Forbes and fiery talk show host Alan Keyes in almost all surveys of potential Republican voters.

In the latest CNN/USAToday/Gallup tracking poll of potential Granite State GOP voters -- released Sunday night -- Bauer doesn't even register a 1 percent rating. He trails Alan Keyes, who polled at 8 percent.

In a CNN/Time poll of likely South Carolina Republican voters, also released Sunday, Bauer receives support from 1 percent of those surveyed.

Analysts have predicted Bauer will be the next Republican contestant to drop out of the race, closely following Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who bailed out after garnering a 1 percent return in the Iowa Republican caucus. Bauer placed fourth in Iowa with 8 percent.

The longtime conservative activist, and one-time Reagan Administration adviser, refuses to utter any words that might resemble reservation to the fate consigned to him by the national press.

"I'm a fighter," he told reporters Monday. "I've outlasted some big names, including Elizabeth Dole and Orrin Hatch.

"I'm doing this," he continued, "Because I have superior confidence to fight for conservative ideals as much as (Vice President Al) Gore and (President Bill) Clinton have in fighting for their liberal ideals."

"My opponents do not," he said.

Bauer said pointedly that he had no intention of dropping off the GOP card. "I plan on going to the (Republican National) Convention in Philadelphia."

Friday's appearance before the Manchester Rotary Luncheon placed the longshot candidate in front of what should have been a bread-and-butter crowd.

The 45 in attendance laughed and joked with Bauer and each other in typical Rotarian fashion. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited. Dollar bills were given up by members who told bad jokes or neglected to wear their Rotary pins, and club business was dispensed with before Bauer took the microphone.

But not once did Bauer ask those in the small audience to support him on Tuesday.

Rather, he promised to uphold the crowd's values if he becomes president, saying his greatest job will be to reshape American civilization, which he describes as "lost" thanks to a "permissive" popular culture that exhorts young people to "do it" if "it feels good."

"We'll tolerate everything, except the values our nation was built on," Bauer said. Among the unacceptable things tolerated in this country, according to Bauer: abortion on demand, miscreant behavior in public schools, and the legacy of broken families and abused or abandoned children.

Add to that the Vermont Supreme Court's recent decision to grant homosexual couples many of the same benefits accorded to heterosexual married couples.

"I can see the headline now," Bauer said Monday. "Court redefines marriage so men can marry men. Think of what will happen when a man shows up (to marry) three women. Think of what will happen when a 40-year-old shows up with a 12-year-old.

"'Don't judge my ability to make a choice, she's very mature,' that man will say," Bauer continued. "Well, 3,000 years of civilization has been built on judging. On reliable standards of right and wrong."

Therein lies the thrust of Gary Bauer's conservative message. Bauer, like many of his opponents, favors downsizing the federal government. But a smaller government will not be possible, he said, unless American culture is transformed.

"You don't want big government?" Bauer asked the Rotarians. "Then people will have to restrain themselves, and the culture has to support restraint."

Bauer also skillfully employs his links to former President Ronald Reagan when speaking of his own agenda. He told stories of his father visiting his office in the White House when he was a domestic policy advisor to Reagan, and of the handwritten letter and envelope sent by Reagan when the senior Bauer passed away.

Bauer did not take questions from the restrained but receptive crowd before heading to his next event, a speech at the Franklin Pierce Law School in Concord.

Despite his low polling numbers among New Hampshire Republicans, Bauer does not lack for attention.

Perhaps most interested in him Monday was the Swedish television crew that taped the entire event and interviewed him afterward, and 12-year-old Lawrence Ingmanson, who accompanied his father, a visiting Rotarian from New York, to the luncheon.

The younger Ingmanson's eyes grew wide when he was told who would be speaking Monday. "Gary Bauer? He's running last in the pack, isn't he?"

ELECTION 2000
Bush, Gore cheer on same Super Bowl team - sort of (1-31-00)

NHPrimary.com: Record turnout forecast for New Hampshire primary (1-31-00)

Presidential hopefuls search for support just two days before New Hampshire vote (1-30-00)

Tracking poll: Gore, McCain hold New Hampshire leads (1-30-00)

Tracking poll: Bradley gains ground on Gore (1-30-00)

As New Hampshire primary looms, candidates set sights on voters (1-29-00)

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