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    Political Junkie
    Send your questions about campaigns and elections.
    Bush's Texas-Sized
    Head Start for 2000

    By Ken Rudin
    Special to washingtonpost.com
    Tuesday, October 27, 1998

    Question: I am always surprised when our governor is named as a possible presidential candidate. The people of Texas are not nearly as enthused as some Northerners are. Do you think he will run? How big will he have to win in '98 to be considered by the GOP for 2000? – Cora Loosier, Marion, Tex.

    Answer: For quite some time I've been saying George W. Bush will be the Republican standard bearer in 2000. Part of it is that he may be the most impressive figure the GOP has to offer, certainly one with a broader appeal than folks like John Ashcroft, Steve Forbes, or Gary Bauer. He comes off as an aw-shucks friendly type of guy, comfortable with the media and with himself.

    There have been endless reports about some dark secrets in his past, and Bush himself has indicated he is less-than-eager to go through a media probe into his personal life. But this will probably be the best chance he has to make the race.

    By all accounts, he seems headed for a landslide re-election against Land Commissioner Garry Mauro (D). The latest Texas Poll has Bush up 66 to 21 percent. The best a Texas GOP gubernatorial candidate ever received is the 53 percent Bush got in 1994, when he ousted Ann Richards – a record he is likely to break next Tuesday.

    Question: Who wins the Colorado Senate race between Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R) and Dottie Lamm (D)? – Edward E. Adams, Denver, Colo.

    Answer: Campbell, comfortably. The first election after switching parties is always a true test for politicians, and so all eyes were on last August's GOP primary to gauge any vulnerability of Campbell, who left the Democrats in March of 1995. If Campbell was facing any trouble in November, one indication would have been be a sizable vote in the GOP primary for conservative attorney Bill Eggert. Instead, Campbell trounced him, 70 to 30 percent.

    A measure of Campbell's strength was the list of Colorado politicians who refused to run against him – such as Democratic Gov. Roy Romer and Reps. David Skaggs (D) and Scott McInnis (R). Lamm, the wife of former Governor Dick Lamm – who lost to Campbell in the 1992 Democratic Senate primary – never seemed to find her footing, having far less money available to make a close race.

    Question: What's your read on Rep. Bart Gordon's (D-Tenn.) race? He's being challenged by Gulf War veteran Walt Massey, who is running ads decrying Gordon's support for Bill Clinton. – Dave and Sharon Backs, Hermitage, Tenn.

    Answer: The time to beat Gordon seems to have passed. The 6th Congressional District has seen an increase in conservative voters this decade, which theoretically could threaten Gordon's tenure in office. Gordon in fact was almost defeated in the anti-Clinton year of 1994, as Republican attorney Steve Gill used the president's widespread unpopularity in the district and came within 2,000 votes of Gordon. Gill never stopped running and raised a lot of money for a rematch in 1996. But Gordon became more attentive at home, shifted to the right on some issues, ran a more aggressive campaign, and won by nearly 30,000 votes.

    This year Massey, who was trounced by Gill in the '96 primary, is back again. Some Republicans are touting Massey's chances, citing a recent influx of money from Washington that has boosted his profile. But he's not expected to come close to the amount Gordon is expected to spend. And unless he can effectively tie Gordon to Clinton, which seems unlikely, the Democrat will return for an eighth term.

    Question: Your predictions are almost as encouraging for the Democrats as the predictions of the DNC (see the Oct. 20 column). You wouldn't be trying to pump up Dem turnout, would you? If you are within eight seats in the House or two in the Senate, I'll send an apology. – Lee Weber, Atlanta, Ga.

    Answer: This question is similar to ones I received in 1994, when I predicted the Republicans would gain 45 seats in the House (they got 52). Then, I was a lackey for the GOP; now, it's the opposite.

    When I look at the election on a district-by-district basis, I can't see the 10-to-15 seat gain predicted by Rep. John Linder and other Republican leaders. Yes, there are Democrats who will lose, Democrats who will be pulled down by Clinton and other factors. But what about Rep. Bill Redmond (R) in N.M.? Or the seats being vacated by Reps. Frank Riggs (R-Calif.), Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), Mike Parker (R-Miss.), Joe McDade (R-Pa.), Linda Smith (R-Wash.), or Wisconsin's Mark Neumann and Scott Klug? All have genuine shots at falling to the Democrats.

      Also See:
      Key Races: The House (washingtonpost.com)

    Question: I've noticed that the campaigns covered in your Junkie columns are accompanied by political campaign buttons. Are these all from your collection? – Hal Wiener, Millburn, N.J.

    Answer: In 1966, when I first showed signs of being obsessed with political junkie-itis, I began to collect campaign buttons; at the end of the '66 election, I marveled over the fact that I had filled up an entire shoe box. Now I have about 70,000.

    If any of you out there collect and would like to swap, drop me a line. I especially can use buttons from this year's campaigns, and I'll generously trade you presidential or state and local items from previous years for anything I need.

    Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: junkie@washingtonpost.com

    Ken Rudin, the political editor at NPR and a former editor of the Hotline, writes the "Political Graffiti" column for The Hill, a Capitol Hill weekly. He is also the creator of washingtonpost.com's ScuttleButton contest.

    © Copyright 1998 Ken Rudin

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