|THE TEXAS TRAIL|
October 27, 1998
[Editor's Note: Gov. Bush cruised to re-election beating his Democratic challenger 68 to 30 percent.]
BETTY ANN BOWSER: If the polls are correct...he is the most popular Republican in America...and could very well be the party's nominee for president in 2000.
SPOKESMAN: George W. Bush. (applause)
BETTY ANN BOWSER: But right now George W. Bush is concentrating on getting himself re-elected as governor of Texas. If he wins, he'll be the first back-to-back two-term governor in the history of the state. His opponent is 44 year old Democratic land commissioner Garry Mauro, who is so far behind in the race that observers say it's almost no contest. Mauro is campaigning with limited money and without the support of the state's most powerful Democrat -- Lt. Governor Bob Bullock, who broke from the party to endorse Bush. Bullock and a few other prominent Democrats are supporting Bush because he has made it a policy to work in a bipartisan way to get his agenda passed. Rice University political science Professor Bob Stein says that coalition building is one of the reasons for the governor's popularity.
BOB STEIN, Rice University political science professor: He's not Trent Lott; he's not Newt Gingrich; he's just an experienced relatively new politician who wants to solve problems. He's the kind of guy you can sit down and have a conversation with. This is not a man whose ego is in front of you. You feel comfortable, talk to reporters, talk to politicians.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Earlier this year, the governor demonstrated those down to earth qualities when he flew to the Rio Grande Valley to talk to Texans who had been flooded out of their homes.
GOVERNOR: There is hope ay esperanza en Del Rio.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Bush is the first born son of former President George Bush. He spent his early years in Texas. Then -- like his father -- he went on to Andover and Yale -- and like his dad he became a pilot. But as a young man he says he was unfocused -- at times a party boy. After getting an MBA from Harvard, Bush headed back to his roots in Texas, where he dabbled in the oil business, and eventually became a part owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team. In 1976, he married librarian Laura Welch. They have raised their twin teenaged daughters in Texas. It is those Texas ties -- says family friend and former Texas Republican Party chairman George Strake -- that make him so appealing.
GEORGE STRAKE: If he has perhaps one strength over his Dad, it's that it looks like his conservatism comes from in here (pointing to heart), and he didn't have to learn it as he was growing up. I think his roots out there in Odessa oil patch taught him what basic Texas philosophy was -- basic Texas conservatism was. And that projects pretty well.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Bush is known as a straight talker and for sometimes being downright blunt -- a trait he says he gets from his mother.
GOV. BUSH: Well, as a woman one time walked up to the mike, she said, "You know this boy make have his daddy's eyes but he's got his mother's mouth." And I think that Texans are looking for a straight forward thinker. I think most Americans are as well -- just somebody who is a plain talker. I think that's why mother captured the imagination of so many people in America. She was a plain talker and she also had a unique capacity to make people feel comfortable.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: One important group of voters Bush is trying to make comfortable with him is the state's Hispanic voters, who make up 28 percent of the population. But in ten years they are expected to be a majority of the state's population. This is a traditionally Democratic voting block. But Republican Bush is trying to make inroads.
AD SPOKESMAN: Used to be I just pulled the lever Democrats. Doesn't always work, does it?
BETTY ANN BOWSER: His television ads are targeted specifically at those voters.
AD SPOKESMAN: Opportunity, George Bush.
(AD IN SPANISH)
BETTY ANN BOWSER: El Paso -- a city of 620,000 people in far West Texas -- is 70 percent Hispanic and historically very Democratic. For years it has been ignored by both parties. But this year El Paso has become the cornerstone of the Bush re-election strategy. National political observers are watching closely because Republican Bush is openly, aggressively courting Hispanics.
GOV. BUSH: I can't think of a better way to say to Texas that El Paso is important to the future of this state than to have the one governor's debate right here in this great city of El Paso.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: He wants to get 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in El Paso on election day. Political observers say if he can do that, it will be like taking back the Alamo. Bush has been to El Paso more than a dozen times. He frequently addresses crowds in Spanish -- at news conferences he answers reporters' questions in Spanish. Democratic Mayor Carlos Ramirez is a Bush convert.
MAYOR CARLOS RAMIREZ: He reaches out and wants to be part of a community; he cares about the community. I was over visiting with him in Austin a few months ago...my wife and I. We were sitting at the table ready to eat and he said let's grab hands and let's pray. Now that struck a chord; that struck a chord.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The mayor also says on issues of substance the governor has delivered for El Paso.
GOV. BUSH: I think it's very important for me to show, if I can do well, to show that there's a way to attract Hispanic votes. The Hispanic vote is essentially a conservative vote. It is pro-family, it is pro-free enterprise, it historically has been a pro-military vote, it is a very Catholic vote, and, therefore, it's a vote that should be garnered by people of my philosophy. The problem is, is that oftentimes people in the Republican Party have sent mixed signals to the Hispanics. We on one hand talk about a common philosophy and on the other hand say things like English only. What English-only says to many Hispanics is me, not you.
|A song and a dance.|
GARRY MAURO: George Bush thinks that somehow he's going to do well in El Paso, because he's got a song and a dance. Now, he'll tell you, I speak a little Spanish; I've even got some Tejano singers to sing songs in Spanish about me; I think I can carry El Paso because I'm going to give the voters in El Paso a song and a dance.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Bush's opponent Mauro says the Hispanic strategy is phony and tells Democratic voters they have nothing in common with the governor. Margarita Sanchez is an Hispanic community activist who is voting for Mauro.
MARGARITZ SANCHEZ: I believe that the governor needs to visit the areas where we have a big population of families who are either unemployed...have very little resources a low economic resources...limited English.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Poor people?
MARGARITZ SANCHEZ: Poor people. I haven't seen anything of any substance when he comes in.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: And Democratic State Party Chairman Molly Beth Malcolm says the Bush strategy won't work.
MOLLY BETH MALCOLM: You know, in 1492, Columbus discovered America, and here it is in 1998, and finally, George Bush and the Republican Party discovered the Hispanic population of Texas. They can read the demographics. But the Hispanic population in Texas has been and always will be an important part of the Texas Democratic Party. You know, he thinks that he can go down with a song and a dance, and he's doing that, and he's taking a singer around with him to the Hispanic community, and saying oh, I'm your friend. I'm like you. He's very much patronizing people and people see through that.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The governor has moderate views on immigration and he is not opposed to bilingual education, so he bristles at such comments.
GOV. BUSH: You can't just show up all of a sudden and start saying things that people find attractive. You must earn the Hispanic vote, which means you must ask, you must come and speak to leaders over the course in my case of three and a half years as the governor, and you must put policies in place that people say this guy cares about me.
|On the national level.|
BETTY ANN BOWSER: And some say Bush has a legitimate chance to make in-roads into the Hispanic vote on a national level.
BOB STEIN: George Bush is the person in the Republican Party who can probably expand the coalition of Republicans to include what is in California, Florida, and Texas the fastest growing and largest minority population and most importantly the largest chunk of unclaimed voters Hispanic. And, remember, California, Florida, and Texas, together represent almost a fifth of the electoral votes you need to become President of the United States.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: And Stein says Bush's stance as a moderate in his party will help him if he decides to run for President.
BOB STEIN: He's staked out a middle position a lot like Clinton. He's taken an enormous amount of heat from the conservative right of his party and possibly some heat from the more liberal radical part of the Democratic Party, but he's found middle ground and in American politics when you find that middle ground, you hold onto it tenaciously and I think that's to a large extent his success.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: But former State Republican Party Chairman Tom Pauken says Bush's middle ground turns off a sizeable number of conservatives in the party and could hurt him in a possible run for the presidency.
TOM PAUKEN: There is a debate right now going on for the soul of the Republican Party. Do we follow what some are calling the third way, which is what Bill Clinton did with the Democrats. I think ultimately that will not be successful, that approach. I do think we need to get back to being an issue-driven party and quite frankly if the Republican Party chooses to go this third way and become a moderate centrist bipartisan party once again, as it was so much in the pre-Goldwater period. I think there will be a lot of conservatives leaving the Republican Party.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Everywhere he goes, the governor is asked about the presidency.
GOV. BUSH: People all of sudden have this mindset -- well he's being touted -- therefore he is going to run, and that's not the way I think. I'm going to take my time; I'm going to look at this deal. At some point I'm going to have to let everybody know one way or the other but I'm thinking about it, and the reason I'm thinking about it, because everywhere I go in Texas, people are talking about it. And I'm talking about Texas. They're all walking up, I hope you're running, and that's what happens when you've got a famous mother.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The governor says he really hasn't made up his mind. And the President's problems in Washington have given him second thoughts.
GOV. BUSH: I got people calling from high school days, saying you know, I got a call from some reporter, Bush and I say, well, good -- and you know
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Asking questions about you back then and what you did?
GOV. BUSH: About my personal life, sure. And you know what they're going to find? They're going to find out that first and foremost I was a loyal husband. They'll find I'm a dedicated dad.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Never a question about that?
GOV. BUSH: Absolutely and they're going to find out that as governor of Texas I've brought honor and dignity to the office I ran for. And I said sure, when I was young and irresponsible, I behaved young and irresponsibly, but that's not the question for baby boomers. The question for baby boomers is have you grown up? Are you prepared to take on the responsibilities as an adult. And I have.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Political scientist Stein says people who assume Bush is running for president may be disappointed.
BOB STEIN: It's not clear which direction he's running -- for the presidency -- towards it or away.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Right now Bush is focused very clearly on November. The main message of his campaign is a promise to see that every child in Texas learns to read. But he hasn't promised voters he'll be a full term governor if he's re-elected. This governor is keeping his options open.