CBS) With a pledge to shake up American politics, presidential candidate Pat Buchanan announced Monday that he's bolting the Republican Party after 40 years to seek the Reform Party nomination.
But Buchanan's chances of becoming the nominee are anything but guaranteed. And as CBS News Correspondent Phil Jones reports, one of Buchanan's potential rivals fired a broadside of criticism at him Sunday, setting the stage for an all-out battle.
"We are here to make a little bit of history, my friends," he told a group of at least 300 supporters Monday. "I'm ending my lifelong membership in the Republican party, and ending my campaign nomination and declaring my intention to seek the nomination of the presidency of the United States."
Buchanan, the pugnacious conservative commentator whose insurgent campaigns hobbled Republican front-runners in 1992 and 1996, formally announced his defection Monday in Falls Church, Va. His GOP presidential campaign never broke out of the single digits in polls, and he had trouble raising money.
Buchanan is not assured of winning the Reform Party nomination and would be a long-shot in the general election, although Democratic and Republican operatives say he could win enough votes to make a mark on the 2000 elections.
"This decision was not made without anguish and regret," Buchanan continued. "I will [never] regret nine years of service to Richard Nixon from his comeback campaigns of 1966 and 68 to the great triumph of 49 states in 1972, to the tragic final days of Watergate."
Buchanan plans to take his potent mix of anti-trade populism and anti-abortion conservatism to the party and "build a mighty, unprecedented coalition of Americans all across party lines," he said in a letter mailed to his backers late last week.
Real estate tycoon Donald Trump plans to join the Reform Party in advance of a possible campaign for the presidency. Currently a Republican, he has said he will file the documents Monday.
Trump fired the opening salvo against Buchanan in what is likely to become a war over control of the Reform Party. "He's a Hitler lover. I guess he's an anti-Semite. He doesn't like blacks, he doesn't like the gays. It's just incredible that anybody could embrace this guy," said Trump.
Trump's charge stems from Buchanan's own writing. In his recently released book, Buchanan is less-than critical about Adolf Hitler and his threat to the United States during World War II.
Republicans worry that a strong Buchanan candidacy would siphon conservative voters from the eventual GOP nominee.
Most polls substantiate GOP fears, although some surveys suggest that Buchanan would attract as many Democrats as Republicans. In current polls, no more than one in 10 voters tell pollsters they would support him. Buchanan is the sixth person to quit the GOP nomination race, leavinBush and five others in the field.
But Republican presidential candidate John McCain isn't worried about Pat Buchanan's move to the Reform Party. McCain says he doesn't think Buchanan is going to take any votes with him.
The way McCain sees it, Buchanan wasn't getting any traction in the Republican Party, so he probably won't get much traction outside it.
"It's really bad news for the party that [BuchananÂ's] leaving behind," American University Professor Alan Lichtman tells CBS News. He specializes in the history of third parties. "Republicans are deluding themselves into thinking Pat