WE THOUGHT we were prepared for the inevitable rhetorical excesses of a long presidential campaign. Thought we were prepared for the inevitable demonizing of American business and the sentimental moralizing by somebody who left a window open and felt "a genuine draft." But this past week was too much, too soon. One presidential condidate had the following statement attributed to him in his obviously frenzied pursuit of the White House:
"There's an amazing amount of mediocrity among even the top, top businessmen. I know, I've seen them. Ninety percent are mediocre, pompous, narrow, stupid Neanderthals."
As if that weren't enought for one week, the same candidate turned back the political clock and further sermonized: "We're going to have to show a care and a concern and a compassion for people. We must not deny the needy the sustencance they require. We must show we can deliver aid and assistance more efficiently."
Who is this captain of hyperbole? This business-baiting, platitudinizing bleeding heart? Of course, you guessed it, John B. Connally, the former Texas governor and present Republican candidate for president.
Mr. Connally's lapses into oral overkill should probably be discounted, because their publication followed immediately upon a disappointing Florida weekend for the former Treasury secretary. In Orlando, Republicans -- all 1,357 at this event -- held another of those apparently epidemic presidential straw votes. Only this one turned out to be the nuclear arms race of straw ballots. The Republican candidates, particularly Mr. Connally, spent money the way they say the Democrats do.
The Connally campaign reportedly unloaded somewhere around $350,000 to win 354 straw votes and second place behind Ronald Reagan.
Right now, by law each presidential candidate is limited to pre-nomination spending in Florida of about $1,350,000. So Mr. Connally and his campaign, after the Orlando weekend, have spent about one-quarter of what they'll be able to spend legally. It may hve been just a straw ballot, but $350,000 is not hay, even in Houston.
Next March, 650,000 Florida Republicans are expected to vote in the real presidential primary. Whether you prefer the new math or simple arithmetic, you are forced to conclude that the Connally campaign must be more fiscally responsible if the former Texas governor is to score in Florida. The present Connally cost-benefit ratio ($998.70 per vote) is just unacceptable, especially for a candidate who is committed to a balanced federal budget.
So perhaps the governor's dyspeptic diatribe against business leaders and the nostalgic nostrums about the needy should be overlooked. He did have a difficult week.