WHITE HOUSE WATCH by Richard S. Dunham June 7, 1999

Why George W. Is a Shoo-In for 2000 -- Maybe
Here are 10 reasons why he's bound to clobber Al Gore next year

The most ballyhooed bandwagon of 1999 is about to leave the barn after months of polishing. Texas Governor George W. Bush will hit the campaign trail with titanic expectations and a posse of controversy-seeking reporters in tow.

Will this juggernaut make it to the White House? Or will it meet with inglorious defeat, as did the campaigns of previous front-runners, including Edmund Muskie, Teddy Kennedy, and fellow Texan John B. Connally? Here are 10 reasons why George W. Bush could become the next President. (Tomorrow, Washington Watch will provide 10 reasons why he might not.)

But first, here's why Bush should prevail:

1. People are ready for a change. Despite the nation's economic prosperity, voters are weary of White House scandal. Al Gore doesn't have Bill Clinton's personal baggage, but he doesn't have his charm or charisma, either, and he has been linked to Democratic fund-raising controversies. Bush, though he admits to youthful indiscretions, seems ready to take responsibility for his own (mis)conduct.

2. Buyer's remorse. Many Americans now say they regret their vote for Bill Clinton over President George Bush in 1992. The junior Bush gives them an opportunity to repent. A May 19-20 Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll shows Governor Bush trouncing Clinton, 56% to 34%, in a theoretical match-up. Guilt sells.

3. Americans want a break from partisanship-as-usual. Bush eschews harsh partisanship and talks of changing the political culture of Washington. In Texas, he has had amazingly good relations with Democrats -- so good that the outgoing lieutenant governor, Democrat Bob Bullock, endorsed the Republican governor in 1998. But Bush may need to keep a lid on some of his more controversial admirers, including Newt Gingrich, Pat Robertson, and Tom DeLay.

4. He's likable. Even if Bush's polls are unrealistically high, first impressions are important, and he has made a terrific first impression. He may not be as polished a public performer as Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan, but the Texas governor projects a down-to-earth affability, warmth, and a quick wit -- not exactly traits associated with Al Gore. A recent Zogby poll found Bush getting favorable reviews nationally from 83% of Republicans (just 4% negative), 63% of Independents (just 16% disapprove), and a surprising 48% of Democrats (only 32% give thumbs down). Those are winning numbers.

5. He has learned politics from the masters. An astute student of politics, Bush has absorbed some of the best attributes of Clinton, Reagan, Papa Bush, and Bill Clinton. Like Reagan, he focuses on the big picture and often leaves the details to a superb staff.

Like his dad, he parlays personal relationships into policy triumphs. President Bush's friendships with world leaders helped to build a successful Gulf War coalition and manage the decline of the Soviet Union. Governor Bush has used friendships with lawmakers to push through a successful legislative agenda including tax cuts and increased education spending. And like Clinton, he has an ability to unite disparate political elements, from the extremes to the mainstream. Clinton often talks like a moderate Republican while offering new government programs. Bush often sounds like a New Democrat, even when governing from the right.

6. He talks about issues people care about. Public education has been Bush's top priority in Texas, and he has gotten high grades from most impartial observers. He isn't obsessed with fringe issues that charge up party activists. As governor, he has learned that it's better to deliver on a limited agenda than to make promises only to subsequently ignore them.

7. He appeals to minority voters. He not only speaks the language, he connects with Latino voters in a way that few Republicans do. And he has set records for a Texas Republican in winning over African-American voters, too. If he can translate that appeal to the national stage, it could win him key swing states such as Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, and Florida.

8. The declaration of Independents. Bush has found acceptance among crucial voting blocs, including moderates, Independents, suburbanites, and working women. These groups abandoned the GOP in the losing Presidential elections of 1992 and 1996. But Bush leads Democrats Gore and Bill Bradley by more than 2-to-1 among Independents. Even more surprising, in early polls he has erased the usual gender gap.

9. He doesn't sound like a heartless Republican. To put it another way, he doesn't come across as a cranky extremist. He talks about the politics of inclusion. His economic proposals offer tax breaks to the working poor and middle class. Though he was born into a wealthy, politically successful family, he has identified with the underdog throughout his time in the public eye. That's one reason he shows unusual strength with minorities and blue-collar voters.

10. Republicans are desperate to win. So desperate that they're lining up to give Bush endorsements and money before he even ventures out on the campaign trail. The party's feuding Big Business barons and social conservatives smell victory, so much so that they'd even be willing to call a truce through Election Day. If Bush wins the nomination, you can bet that the GOP will pull out all the stops -- and spend whatever it takes -- to seize the White House from the Forces of Darkness.

Dunham, White House correspondent for Business Week, offers his views on Monday mornings for BW Online. Check back tomorrow to read his list of ways that George Bush could stumble

EDITED BY DOUGLAS HARBRECHT _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


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