Conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan had harsh words for the Republican Party Sunday, when he was interviewed by CBS News' Gloria Borger on Face The Nation.
He warned party leaders against splitting the party, saying they risked more conservative defections like that of Sen. Bob Smith.
"The Republican establishment... is doing its best to force a fracture of the GOP," Pat Buchanan said.
"If they (Republican leadership) slam their door shut, well we'll just have to look for another way," Buchanan said.
Another candidate, publisher Steve Forbes said the Republican establishment should "stop running people like Bob Smith out of the party." Forbes was interviewed on CNN's Late Edition.
Other Republicans, however, warned conservatives that bolting the party would be a waste of time since third party candidates historically have no political power.
Party sources said Smith, a two-term conservative senator from New Hampshire, would announce this week that he was leaving the Republican Party but would continue his long-shot presidential run, possibly as a candidate of the U.S. Taxpayer Party or another third party.
The reports that Smith would leave because he thought the party was too moderate prompted Republican National Chairman Jim Nicholson to write a letter to the senator saying his decision was a "mistake," "counterproductive" and of "marginal political impact."
Buchanan responded by calling Nicholson's letter "rude, arrogant... very stupid." He also opposed calls for Republican presidential candidates to sign an oath promising to support the party's nominee.
"I'm not signing any automatic loyalty oath to support the GOP candidate," Buchanan told Borger. "The Republican establishment is virtually fixing this election
"I am a Republican and I'm running for the Republican nomination," Buchanan said. But he added, "I'm not ruling anything out."
Forbes said signing such an oath would be redundant since he planned to be the candidate. But he urged the leadership to concentrate more on the party's message and stop "harangues" against Smith.
"If we have the issues, ideas and principles that appeal to the American people, we will win," Forbes said. "If we don't, we won't.
"When I'm the nominee I will welcome Bob Smith back into the party because we will stand for something positive again," he said.
But Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition who sought but did not win the 1988 Republican presidential nomination, said on Fox television's News Sunday show that Smith's departure was an "awful mistake."
"Third prties just don't work in America," he said." We're pretty much settled on two major parties, and I think the effective way to work in politics is through one of them."
Senate Republican leader Trent Lott said on NBC-TV's Meet the Press that he was "disappointed" with Smith's decision and leaving the party would probably mean Smith would lose his chairmanship of the Senate Effects Committee.
New York Republican Gov. George Pataki said on CNN, "I don't think Republicans should be taking shots at other Republicans."