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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Buchanan Upsets Gramm in Caucus

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana -- Running as a fire-breathing populist railing against the "new world order," trade deals and abortion, conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan has upset Texas Senator Phil Gramm in the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses here.

With all precincts reporting, Buchanan on Tuesday unofficially won 13 delegates while Gramm had the remaining eight.

The caucus vote represents a setback for Gramm, who predicted he would win here in his own back yard. Buchanan has said a victory would give momentum to his "America-first" message in next Monday's Iowa caucuses and the Feb. 20 New Hampshire primary.

Because Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole, publisher Malcolm "Steve" Forbes, former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander and Indiana Senator Dick Lugar decided not to run in the caucuses here -- in part for fear of angering Republican voters in the traditional kickoff states of Iowa and New Hampshire -- the race was between Gramm and Buchanan. Radio talk show host Alan Keyes also participated.

The candidates who chose to skip the Louisiana caucus insisted in advance that Louisiana wouldn't matter, although they also rushed to interpret the results as devastating to Gramm.

"The presidential race begins next Monday in Iowa," Alexander said.

Indeed, even Louisiana Republicans seemed to think so. About 21,500 Louisianans participated Tuesday, 5 percent of the state's registered Republican voters.

"Most Iowans haven't paid much attention to Louisiana," said Iowa Republican Party chairman Brian Kennedy. "But to the extent people did, Phil Gramm is going to look silly because he was the one who came up with the idea of Louisiana jumping ahead of Iowa so that he could have a springboard."

Louisiana's new Republican governor, Mike Foster, who supported Buchanan, said the caucuses here could decide the conservative challenger to Dole -- or perhaps Forbes, whose media blitz has propelled him to best Dole in some New Hampshire polls.

Political analysts and the campaigns themselves believe the election Tuesday night was fought among deeply religious and conservative Republican activists, who were asked to choose between two contenders who both claim to represent the right wing of the Republican party.

At the First Baptist Church in Slidell, a suburb of New Orleans, Republicans cast votes and seemed split over which candidate is the more conservative and most electable. Members of the Christian Coalition of Louisiana were themselves divided. Buchanan attacked Gramm here for weeks, insisting that the Texas senator is not as conservative as he claims, is soft on abortion and would sell working people out in free trade deals.

The Louisiana results gave a sharp boost to the Buchanan's presidential campaign, while dealing Gramm's candidacy a potentially fatal blow. Buchanan's victory not only embarrassed Gramm in his home region, but also upended the strategic underpinning of his campaign. Gramm advisers, anticipating losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, built their strategy around winning early in other southern and western states, beginning with Louisiana. But the Louisiana voters never warmed to him.

Julie Bruhn, a medical technician and Buchanan supporter, said she was supporting the former Nixon speech writer because of his commitment to be "the most pro-life president in the history of the United States."