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Election 2000: Reform Party Faces Potential Schism at Convention

Aired August 10, 2000 - 1:08 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Remember when political conventions were knockdown drag-out affairs with outcomes that weren't known months ahead of time? Well, if you're feeling nostalgic, look no further than the Reform Party convention that's getting under way today in Long Beach, California.

CNN's Gary Tuchman is there -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, you don't have to love the Reform Party to love the Reform Party convention. If you long for the days of suspenseful political conventions, then the Reform Party convention is for you. Now why is it suspenseful? well, even under the most conventional circumstances, so to speak, it's a tight race between Pat Buchanan and John Hagelin for the presidential nod of this party. but there's a lot more to it.

There is a civil war brewing in this party. A fight so fierce that this convention appears to have been cloned into two conventions. In other words, they have each rented space in this building we're standing in right now, the Long Beach Convention Center. And they may hold two conventions, but they are still not even sure at this point, so anything can happen.

As we speak, Pat Buchanan supporters have marched into this convention center. They call themselves the Buchanan Brigade. They are shouting "Go Pat, go." They are vocal. They are visible. They are enthusiastic. The Reform Party is supposed to pick its presidential candidate with a mail-in primary campaign, a five-weeks primary that ended last night. But the party's executive board ruled Buchanan disqualified because of alleged irregular ballots.

However, another faction of the party doesn't recognize that executive board, that faction says the vote was null and void and that Buchanan is back in. That is the basis of the dispute. Pat Buchanan is the former GOP presidential candidate. As a Republican in 1996, he won the New Hampshire primary. Now he says he's ready to make the Reform Party his party.

John Hagelin is a physicist, says he's the ideological antithesis of Buchanan. He's the leader of the Natural Law Party. He's run under that banner for president before. And he believes that meditation can help solve many of the country's problems. Now the winning presidential candidate gets $12.6 million in federal matching funds.

But the problem is, this party might end up nominating two different candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM MANGIA, REFORM PARTY NATL. SEC.: I think what we have to express today is the complete dismay and disheartening activities of the Pat Buchanan for President campaign in their corrupt attempt to steal the Reform Party nomination, and make off with $12.6 million in federal matching funds.

BAY BUCHANAN, EXEC. CHAIRWOMAN, BUCHANAN CAMPAIGN: Once the $12.6 million is transferred into our account, it will be pretty clear who the nominee is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: It's not a lovefest. Both candidates are scheduled to speak to the convention at 7:30 Eastern time, 4:30 Pacific time. They are both supposed to do it in this room I'm standing in now. But it's not clear if they will do it together or do it separate.

This is Gary Tuchman, CNN live, in Long Beach, California.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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