PRESIDENT Bush has realized for over a year that if the economy does not improve, he could lose the 1992 election, says a leading Republican strategist.
Charles Black, a senior aide to the Bush campaign, yesterday told a breakfast meeting of reporters that the president "has always known it was possible to lose this race."
Mr. Black recalled: "More than a year ago ... I [was] present at discussions where it was said that if the economy isn't better in the fall of '92, and isn't perceived to be better, you're going to have a very tough, close race. Implicit in that is, you could lose."
With polls running about 2 to 1 against Mr. Bush in his race against Democrat Bill Clinton, Republicans are wasting no time in disparaging Governor Clinton's record and policies. During the course of a one-hour discussion, Black charged that Clinton:
* Favors higher taxes, of which two-thirds would fall on small businesses.
* Favors an economic policy that is "nothing new, nothing moderate."
* Supports "environmental extremism."
* Is "all over the map" on family values.
* Is guilty of "flip-flopping" on major issues.
* Supports higher auto-mileage standards, which could "literally shutdown the US auto industry."
* Opposes true welfare reform.
* Has "bought into" the congressional leadership. Black adds: "If you like Congress, you'll love Bill Clinton."
Despite all these criticisms, Black says Clinton is a better candidate than "anyone we have faced in my lifetime."
Black predicts that after the Republican convention, the race will narrow, with the candidates within four or five points of each other.
In coming days, the GOP will showcase Bush's foreign policy record, while pointing out key White House economic proposals which Congress has refused to pass, Black says.