Meanwhile, Back at the State

A Governor running for president has the advantage of a clear record as an executive. But rarely is the record so sterling that an opponent can't find something that might serve as an albatross.

Remember George Bush senior in 1988, splashing Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis with Boston Harbor's (then) polluted waters?

President Bush tried to do the same thing to Bill Clinton in '92, chiding him for polluted rivers in Arkansas. But Mr. Bush's own record with the US economy proved more telling.

Now we have Al Gore trying to brand the governor of Texas with bad management. The Lone Star State is overshooting its budget by more than $610 million, raising questions about Gov. George W. Bush's fiscal conservatism, and the wisdom of his tax cuts in Texas. Would you want this in Washington? asks Mr. Gore.

Fair game, politically. But is this attack likely to hit its mark with voters?

Consider that the causes of the budget overruns in Texas, increasing prison costs and the rising price of prescription drugs in public health programs, are shared with numerous other states. Second, surplus revenue is expected to more than cover the shortfalls. Third, the part-timeTexas legislature, meeting every other year, dictates long-range budgeting and frequent course corrections.

Maybe Gore's best line of attack is whether the Texas system offers very good training for the yearly budgetary battles in Washington. But the tactic of impugning a governor's readiness to lead nationally didn't work very well in '92, or '80, or '76.

In all three of those years, perceptions of character, freshness of ideas, and communicative skills trumped many other concerns. They're likely to be no less telling this time around.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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