Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, is no dummy.
Bolstered by a barrel of cash and armed with a plan to win, Gramm is among the Republican presidential candidates who fully embrace the agenda of the radical Religious Right. Others include commentator Pat Buchanan and Congressman Bob Dornan of California. Of the three, Gramm has the greatest chance of securing the Republican presidential nomination.
Kansas Senator Bob Dole is the current leader. In interviews with "60 Minutes" and The New York Times, former Texas governor Ann Richards predicted that Gramm will out-distance Dole and become the Republican nominee. Richards bases her hunch on the fact that Gramm has the money to run a successful campaign.
Gramm launched his campaign with more than $5 million left over from previous Senate campaigns. In recent fundraising events he quickly doubled that amount.
Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said, "In the Bible of campaign politics it says, 'In the beginning was the word, and the word was money.'" Without a substantial amount of it, no one can become president. In fact, since 1976 — with the exception of Gov. John B. Connally of Texas in 1980 — the candidate who raised the most money during the pre-election year won the nomination.
Gramm, appearing a good ten years older than his 52 years, is still almost 20 years younger than Dole. At 71, Dole's age is seen as his main handicap to securing the nomination.
A keynote speaker at the Christian Coalition's annual Road to Victory conventions in 1993 and 1994, Gramm received a 100% rating in the Christian Coalition's voter guides. The voter guides are intended to help conservative Christians know which candidates champion their cause. Gramm's top rating indicates his full support of the Religious Right's agenda.
Although Gramm is an Episcopalian, he sounds more like a Christian fundamentalist. At the 1993 Road to Victory, Gramm colorfully described his mission in Washington: "I view my work here as doing the Lord's work in the Devil's city."
Last September, Gramm told the Christian Coalition delegates, "I have even heard that the Democrats are now resorting to prayer in hopes of escaping a devastating defeat in November. But let me let them in on a secret," he said. "I do not believe that the Lord is on their side." (Tell that to former President Jimmy Carter. Published reports say that Carter prayed for a victory for the Democrats, and that "people like" Newt Gingrich and Oliver North would be defeated.)
Received enthusiastically at the Christian Coalition convention, Gramm closed the talk with his own prayer. "Dear Lord, if you give us control of our government again, this time we won't waste it."
Opposed to abortion and affirmative action, Gramm says he is the only leading candidate who was "conservative before conservative was cool." Gramm also opposes gays in the military and made homosexuality an issue in his 1984 Senate campaign. During the primary, his rival, Lloyd Doggett, accepted a contribution from a San Antonio gay group which raised the money by sponsoring a strip show. Gramm took him to task for this and subsequently won the election.
Besides the Christian Coalition, other radical conservative groups hold Gramm in high regard. One, Liberty Lobby, publishes a weekly tabloid called The Spotlight. According to the Anti-Defamation League, The Spotlight is "the nation's leading anti-Semitic propagandists." In its February 27, 1995 issue, The Spotlight published an exclusive interview with Gramm.
"Your influence counts so much," The Spotlight told its readers, "that Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) -- a major contender for the Republican presidential nomination -- has embraced the major principles of Liberty Lobby, publisher of The Spotlight."
According the article, Gramm said, "I can balance the budget without a tax hike; I won't seek reelection if I don't balance the budget." He also said he would like to abolish the federal income tax and "eliminate IRS intrusion in our lives -- a great plus." He didn't explain how he would balance the budget without collecting federal income taxes.
Since the beginning of the year, Gramm came up the winner by wide margins in non-binding Republican straw polls in Louisiana, Texas, and Arizona. While these polls offer no guarantee of a place on the presidential ticket, combined with large sums of early money, they establish Gramm's campaign as a formidable one.