JEFFERSON CITY - The chairman of the Missouri Reform Party is actively encouraging presidential aspirant Pat Buchanan to abandon the Republican Party and pursue the third party's nomination.
"I've been in contact with the Buchanan people," said Bill Lewin, Chairman of the Missouri Reform Party. "I think he will probably cross over."
Lewin, 38, said he hopes Buchanan will switch in time for "Reformania," an October party rally, but that the anticipated switch could come at the end of that month.
State Republicans don't seem to be too concerned about Buchanan.
Daryl Duwe, spokesman for the state GOP, said a Buchanan switch could end up benefiting Republicans, by drawing people to the polls who might not ordinarily vote. "This, in turn, will benefit Republican candidates who are running without Reform Party opposition," he said.
Buchanan is being recruited by Perot supporters within the Reform Party, Lewin said.
Another faction, led by Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, has previously characterized Buchanan as a "retread" and is said to be floating Donald Trump and Warren Beatty as possible 2000 standard-bearers.
Lewin, a self-described Ventura guy in his first year as state chairman, said he is not committed to Buchanan but is trying to attract credible candidates to vie for the nomination.
Buchanan is "kind of against what the party is about at this point," Lewin said, "that could change if he brings the Buchanan Brigades into the party."
Lewin says he has corresponded with Buchanan's sister via e-mail within the last few days. In addition to Buchanan, Lewin hopes to see Donald Trump, Warren Beatty, and Charles Collins, a regular on talk-radio, seriously consider the nomination. He said that his organization has had no contact with Trump or Beatty.
"I definitely think we should recruit [Buchanan], he seems to represent a significant part of the party," Lewin said.
"We are united on the issues in our platform but with issues not in our platform we are basically all over the place," he said.
It is with the issues unarticulated within the platform that a Buchanan candidacy could prove complicated for the fledgling party. Buchanan's social and fiscal conservatism may not fit perfectly with the Missouri Reform Party, a point that Lewin readily concedes.
"I would want [Buchanan] to emphasize the issues that are the party platform," Lewin said.