WASHINGTON — President Bush's campaign team recognizes that he could be in danger of losing the November election to Ross Perot, the campaign's top strategist acknowledged in an interview aired Saturday.
"We realize we could lose the election," Charles Black, the campaign's senior political adviser, said on CNN's "Evans and Novak" program. "We realize the Perot phenomenon is a deadly serious matter. We're [as] on top of that as we could be."
The statement appeared to be the most pessimistic of its kind in public by a senior Bush campaign official, although it basically reflects what the majority of public opinion polls have shown for weeks.
In most polls, Bush is trailing Perot, a Texas billionaire expected to formally announce as an independent candidate soon. Mr. Black indicated the Bush campaign was far less concerned by Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, the prospective Democratic nominee, who is generally behind in the polls.
Black warned Republican candidates as well as consultants against defecting and supporting Perot in the Nov. 3 election. He said they "should not be allowed to come back into the party without paying some penalty."
"If they want the support of the Republican organization, in terms of technology, volunteers, and money, they ought to be loyal to the party and they should be punished if they support Ross Perot."
Rep. Vin Weber of Minnesota, secretary of the House Republican Conference, said Bush ought to bring back his politically savvy but widely disliked ex-chief of staff, John Sununu, to shake up his organization and energize it.
"I'd like to see John Sununu back in some position in the organization, yes, White House or the campaign," Mr. Weber said on the same program.