Despite his money, no coronation in store for Bush

July 07, 1999|By Carl T. Rowan

WASHINGTON -- Who is going to tell Texas Gov. George W. Bush that nobody gets the keys to the White House before a single state primary is held, or 16 months before the national election?

There are eight other Republican contenders for the presidency who would like to, but they are so far back in Mr. Bush's dust that not one of them seems to have a chance to get the party's nomination. The GOP big-money boys and the Republican rank and file seem to have concluded that Mr. Bush guarantees them victory, so in just four months they have armed him with a record $36.25 million -- more than his GOP competitors combined.

If the U.S. presidency can be bought, Mr. Bush will have the bankroll with which to buy it.

But some people recall how another Texan, John B. Connally, spent $13 million in the primaries in 1980 and won only one delegate; and how Averell Harriman, Nelson Rockefeller, Ross Perot and Steve Forbes could not, with all their millions, buy the presidency.

But none of these had the political skills of the Texas governor.

Multicultural appeal

You watch Mr. Bush in California, hugging black and Hispanic children and occasionally speaking Spanish, and you sense that here is that rare Republican who really welcomes nonwhites into the party fold. Mr. Bush now seems certain to charm enough black and Hispanic voters, and to close the gender gap enough, to make it impossible for any Democrat to defeat him.

But you see the con man in Mr. Bush when he tells Californians that he would not have supported their Proposition 187, an immigration initiative that curtailed the rights of illegal immigrants to schooling and other services; and that he also disliked "the spirit" of Proposition 209, which curtailed affirmative action programs in education and hiring. However, he said, "I support the spirit of no quotas, no preferences."

Minority voters just might figure out what that double talk really means before they go to the polls next year. In which case the Democratic nominee will be able to hold on to the basic supporters who can make victory possible.

Mr. Bush also has spoken with a forked tongue on the issue of abortion, which could repel the women who now seem charmed by him.

Money matters

Is there such a thing as having too much money, and being too cocky, in a year when campaign financing and being "bought" before the election is bound to become a major issue? Sen. John McCain of Arizona, one of the other Republican contenders, already has accused Mr. Bush of "influence peddling." Mr. Forbes says "he is inextricably tied to Washington lobbyists and special interests." But Mr. Bush's camp says at least 75,000 Americans ponied up the $36 million, not just a few special interests.

The fight over money could get nasty -- if any Republicans other than the wealthy Mr. Forbes can raise enough money to stay in the fight.

Then, there is the resentment a lot of voters claim to have of "family dynasties." More than a few people are muttering that Mr. Bush is "trading on his father's name," or "thinks he is royalty."

Whether this will generate many votes against Mr. Bush will depend on who the alternative is, but I doubt that it will mean a lot.

Still, it doesn't seem possible, or right, that we already know that Mr. Bush will move into the White House in January 2001.

But even he is telling us it is a sure thing.

But 16 months is a long time in which many strange things can happen in a political campaign. It might be nice to cancel the election, save a lot of money and spare a lot of people a lot of campaign boredom. But since we don't have any experience with coronations, we might as well go through the routine of opening the polls and counting the ballots.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 7/07/99

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