As presidential hopeful Patrick Buchanan considers bolting the Republican Party for the Reform Party - which may or may not want him - Republican leaders are urging him not to quit the Grand Old Party.
"I think the Republican Party is a reform party," Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert said Sunday on CBS News' Face the Nation. "We've done welfare reform. Besides that, I think we're also a big tent party, and...we should be able to accept people with a lot of divergent views."
"I don't want Pat Buchanan to leave the party," Republican frontrunner George W. Bush said in an interview with the Associated Press, recalling his father's defeat by President Clinton in a three-way race in 1992.
"I think it's important, should I be the nominee, to unite the Republican Party. I'm going to need every vote I can get among Republicans to win the election," Bush said.
That's a good move by Bush, according to one senior Republican.
"There's nothing that Pat Buchanan wants more than a fight with George W. Bush," said former Education Secretary William Bennett, also on Face the Nation. "He had one before with another George W. Bush, remember, which he used to his advantage. And he'd like it again."
"He would love George W. Bush to criticize him, tell him to leave the party, and then he would attack him as the principal leader of the establishment," added Bennett.
Buchanan is expected to telephone Reform Party founder Ross Perot this week to discuss his potential candidacy for the party's nomination.
House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri isn't sure Buchanan's party affiliation makes a difference.
"I know now the polls show it takes more from a possible George Bush candidacy than Al Gore or Bill Bradley," he said, also on Face the Nation, but he said he thinks the effect of a third party candidacy is about the same on both parties. "I think the American people are very studious about this and make very good judgments. They make a human judgment about the human being that they want to give this responsibility to."
"George W. Bush has to be emphatically clear that the views that Pat Buchanan espouses are not his views," said Bennett, who served in the Reagan Administration. "I don't mean the views just about World War II but his views about America, about trade, about American foreign policy, and to me, the most noxious of Pat Buchanan's view, the notion that some Americans are to be preferred to others.'
Bennett questions whether Buchanan belongs in the party. "Two out of the three major issues, foreign policy and trade, I think he is no longer a Republican," he said.
"The stuff that Pat Buchanan is spewing is not the stuff in which we believe," Bennett added.