A Race, at Last

YES, Virginia, there is a Wilder presidential candidacy. And a Tsongas candidacy and a Harkin candidacy, and in all likelihood there will be Kerrey and Clinton candidacies.So yes, Virginia, there will be a race for the Democratic nomination after all. Understandably, you were beginning to wonder during those summer months when Paul Tsongas, the former US senator from Massachusetts, appeared to be the only Democrat gutsy enough to take on George Bush in November '92. But as the weather cools, the contest for the Democratic nomination is finally heating up. Gov. Douglas Wilder of Virginia and Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa have joined Tsongas in the ring. Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska is expected to announce Monday, and a bid by Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas is almost certain. Former California Gov. Jerry Brown is considering a run, and Jesse Jackson is coyly keeping his options open. Gov. Mario Cuomo of New York and Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas aren't currently in the presiden tial picture, but each could leap in quickly, as each of them has the fund-raising ability to play catch-up politics. The men most committed to the race are generally unfamiliar outside political circles and their respective states. But they aren't just another field of "dwarfs." All are leaders of demonstrated political skills, and a number of them have charisma that can pique the interest of the media. Of course, they lack two things President Bush (assuming he runs for reelection) will have in abundance: money and campaign experience. The eventual Democratic nominee will have enough money for the general election, thanks to federal financing, but some hopefuls could have trouble raising enough cash for a sustained primary campaign - especially as the front-end costs have soared owing to Super Tuesday. Bush's edge in campaign experience is even more formidable. His own instincts have been honed in three national elections, and he will field a seasoned campaign team. But the combined resources of the Democratic Party can make up some of the difference, if the eventual nominee relies more heavily on the party's experienced hands than the standoffish Michael Dukakis did. Besides, experience isn't everything: witness the victories of newcomers John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Jimmy Carter in 1976. We'll have more to say about the 1992 race - its content, tone, and financing - in the months ahead. For now, we're heartened by the suddenly revived prospects for some spirited political competition. It will be good for the republic, good for the Democrats, and even good for George Bush and the Republicans.

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