ATTY. GEN. John L. Hill (D), 55, who defeated Gov. Dolph Briscoe (D) in the May primary, has never wavered in his confidence that he will be elected governor. But other Democrats are nervous about the media blitz unleashed by former deputy defense secretary William P. Clements (R), 61. Hill, a moderate Democrat, has responded to Clements' conservative attacks by becoming more critical of the Carter administration's energy and economic policies. Some Democrats foresee a very close finish, but note that Texas has never elected a Republican governor.
Sen. John G. Tower (R), 53, was in serious trouble in his bid to extend his 17-year-old Senate career even before his much-publicized refusal to shake hands with his opponents, Rep. Robert Krueger (D), 43. But the incident hurt so much that Tower has concentrated his own ads on explaining it - a defense mechanism that confirms Krueger's standing as a narrow betting favorite in this hard-fought battle.
Eight of Texas' 24 House seats are without a candidate seeking reelection - all now held by Democrats. In three of the eight, Republicans have strong challengers, with George W. Bush (R), son of the GOP presidential hopeful, perhaps the best-financed and most likely winner among them. The GOP also has hopes in the rematch between Rep. Bon Gammage (D) and ex-Rep. Ron Paul (R) and in Tom Pauken's (R) challenge to freshman Rep. Jim Mattox (D). But chances of a multi-seat Republican gain have faded since spring.