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March 6, 2003

Will Bush 43 Face The Fate of His Father?

John P. Snyder

With the presidential election coming up next year, Democrats are hoping that, for them, it will be "deja vu all over again." Recall that it was at this juncture in 1991 that George H. W. Bush (Bush 41) was in what seemed an invincible position.

High approval numbers. Victory over Iraq and contentment at home discouraged some of the heavyweight Democratic contenders that year. By November of the next year Bush 41 was soon to be an ex-president.

This year the nine contenders for the Democratic nomination for president all cite that scenario from 12 years ago. It seems to give them a reason to fight on.

But so much is different this time. Start with the fact that George W. Bush (Bush 43) has ace political consultant Karl Rove to guide him, whereas Bush 41 had lost the services of his guru, Lee Atwater, to brain cancer in 1991. Without Mr. Atwater, the Bush 41 campaign was a rudderless ship.

It is unlikely that another Ross Perot will emerge to split the moderate /conservative vote as occurred in 1992. Few have the reputation or the money that Mr. Perot had, and no one has surfaced to replace him.

This time around, campaign finance laws will really cripple the Dems. With the soft money restrictions in place, the Dems can't compete with the Republicans fundraising prowess. While the Dems rely on political PAC money from unions, environmentalists and Hollywood, the Republicans have strong support from individuals, who now can give $2,000, up from $1,000 before. The Bush 43 campaign can raise $250 million before the convention, far more than the Dems can.

Bush 43 have never wavered from a domestic agenda, where his father seemed bored by it. He'll release initiatives even during conflicts with Iraq and North Korea. And the economy has time to rebound for Bush 43, whereas the economy was shaky enough to be exploited by Bill Clinton in 1992.

Further, the Cold War had just ended a few years earlier, and people gave President Clinton a chance because it seemed the world was somewhat safer. It would seem less likely that, in a dangerous world, Americans would turn the reigns over to a big liberal like a John Kerry or a Howard Dean.

And Mr. Bush can count on a loyal staff to be leak proof and keep quiet.

Anything can happen, of course, but anyone who cites 1992 as an example is not comparing apples and apples.

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