Under the 1999 Republican tax plan, the Marine sergeant, the elementary school teacher, the children's nurse, the textile worker and the waitress -- all those folks GOP candidates have been conditioned to admiringly refer to as "hard-working Americans" and who truly are -- will get an average tax cut of $138 a year.

And what about the top one percent of U.S. earners whose average income starts at $301,000 a year and who can frequently put dinner, greens fees and World Series tickets on an expense account and themselves on a private plane? Their average tax cut, according to the respected Citizens for Tax Justice, would be more than $46,000 a year. And Republicans get angry when you point out they belong to the party for people who don't have to work.

That probably is harsh. Republicans actually can be more than the Party of the Haves. Just look at 1998 and Sen. John McCain's strong across-the-board support in Arizona, where he won a solid majority of the Hispanic vote and the Navajo vote overwhelmingly. In Texas that same year, Gov. George W. Bush won the votes of 49 percent of Hispanics and nearly one of four African Americans. Republican county chairmen, if you give them the chance, will tell you endlessly that today's Republicans are anything but homogeneous -- that Republicans come "from all walks of life."

After the 53rd time you have been told that party members come from every social, ethnic, religious, racial and economic subgroup -- "from all walks of life" -- it is altogether likely you might ask just exactly how many walks of life there really are. Neither the Bureau of Standards nor the Department of Transportation keeps a list.

At a recent Republican event, I saw at least a representative sample of walks. Most presidential candidates, irrespective of campaign cash on hand or single digits in the Gallup, have mastered the basic confident stride. In the truly confident, the stride can become a stroll -- but no strut for anyone who wants to make it all the way to November 2000.

Voters will back a candidate who ambles, or even one who occasionally lumbers. But the candidate is doomed who tiptoes around the issues, or who loiters, or who prances in public.

For Republicans there are other concerns. New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith already has bolted, and conservative stalwart Pat Buchanan, it is rumored, may very well "take a walk." Because so many major GOP contributors and party officials are convinced Bush will "win in a walk," underdog Republican candidates seem consigned to being just walk-ons.

Yes, front-runners often do stumble. Sometimes they falter. But a winner will step widely, and his loyal followers will show themselves prepared for a long march. The winner may stagger or even falter, but never strays, sashays or straggles.

Voters do like a candidate who Walks Tall. Nobody has ever admitted to Walking Short. In every campaign, sleepwalking and streetwalkers are devoutly to be avoided. The worthy opponent will never be a walk-over. But next year's winner will genuinely feel like he or she's walking on air.