(CNSNews.com) - Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan said Wednesday he does not regret running as a third-party candidate, even though his presence on the ballot may have hurt Republican George W. Bush.
In fact, at a Washington news conference Wednesday morning, Buchanan said he thinks his bolt to a third party is the best decision he's ever made in his life.
At the same press conference, however, Buchanan later admitted he is "praying" that in the final analysis, Bush will defeat Vice President Al Gore.
Buchanan wryly noted, "I would like to congratulate the President-elect and the Vice President-elect, whoever they may be. I am inclined to think -- and frankly, I hope and I pray -- that it is Governor Bush of Texas.
"I think it would be healthy for America if the Republicans who have the House and the Senate narrowly, also have the White House and thus were given full responsibility and accountability for two years for the direction of this country. So, I hope and pray Governor Bush is successful in Florida and successful nationally."
Buchanan added he thinks it's better for America if Bush appoints Supreme Court justices. He also said he believes the votes against Gore came from Americans voting to convict Bill Clinton.
Buchanan said his defeat does not mean the death of the Reform Party - far from it, he said.
"It is quite clear that third parties are the balance of power in American politics today given the narrowness...of the Republicans and the Democrats," he said. In fact, Buchanan said at the outset of his press conference, the 2000 election demonstrates not only the importance, but also the permanence of the third party movement in American politics.
As an example, Buchanan noted that the 400,000-500,000 votes he received nationwide far exceeds the difference between Bush and Gore in the popular vote.
"Mr. Bush is winning Florida by 2,000 votes," Buchanan said, noting that he received 17,000 votes in that still-contested state. "If I had not had gallbladder surgery, which kept me out of the race for six weeks, we would have been in Florida several more times, and I think that could have cost Mr. Bush the state of Florida and the election."
He took full responsibility for the Reform Party not faring well in this year's election.
"I am responsible alone for the fact that the Reform Party did not do better than it did. I, alone, am responsible as the leader of this party and the candidate of this party that we did not reach remotely the numbers that I had hoped we would reach. We did not even reach my expectations and so I take responsibility for that and no one else," Buchanan said.
Buchanan gave credit to Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader for running an "exciting" campaign.
"Mr. Nader, I believe, can take credit for having sunk the Clinton-Gore administration and the Gore candidacy and for dramatically and decisively affecting the outcome of this presidential election. What I think we have seen here is the lethal power of third parties in American politics even though they are small parties and even though they garner either one percent or two percent of the national vote," Buchanan said.
Buchanan ruled out the idea of forming a "coalition party" with Nader, but he said he would work with him to stop NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"I will work in stopping that expansion with everything we have. We will look at those Republicans and those Democrats who support the President on expanding NAFTA and we will go after them in the election of 2002.
"I have worked with Ralph before in the past on those issues. I'm delighted to work with him in coalitions on issues but as for a coalition party, I think you would find too many ideas that clash. We found that out in the Reform Party," Buchanan said.
Despite his defeat, Buchanan said he isn't quitting politics. In fact, his third-party crusade continues: "We are having a meeting already out in Virginia to raise funds to begin to target those congressional districts where Democrats and Republicans are very much alike -- very pro-NAFTA, pro-abortion, pro-internationalism -- and target those districts with strong, conservative, populist candidates who can affect the outcome of the election in 2004," Buchanan said.
Asked about his post-election plans, he quipped, "I will try to find a job in this Clinton-Gore economy."