The Winnahs! The largest city in a one-party state The folk at Bentsen headquarters on election night gulped bourbon and listened to the tube, first Walter and Roger and Dan and Eric, and then over to David B. and the boys. The party got gayer, or maybe just louder and more drunk, as the evening wore on. All the true believer types were over at Bush headquarters getting royally depressed. Lloyd Bentsen isn’t the kind of politician people fall in love with. One young lawyer peered morosely at the returns and said, “I guess I ought to be happy I worked for the son of a bitch.” A lady wearing a Bentsen scarf around her neck was more into the thing. She bounced on her chair at the NBC prediction and chirped, “This is so exciting. We’ve been working for this for ten months.” Cronkite said the race in Texas was decided by local conditions. Agnew said Bentsen would support the president and practically claimed him as a Republican victory. Larry O’Brien came on in response and said Bentsen’s win was an upset victory for the Democrats and, huh, big fat Republican gain when they dropped all that dough trying to elect Bush. O’Brien seemed to relish the thought of all that wasted Republican money. And then Dan Rather up and said he thought the Democrats might put Bentsen up for veep on their 72 ticket in order to cut the Republicans’ Southern strategy off at the knees. And everyone back at headquarters said, “Oh, wow.” Time, Life and Newsweek, who were all drinking scotch, agreed that Nixon lost it for Bush by building up interest in the race. “It’s the dang reflex,” said Life, puffing his pipe. “As in, ‘Gosh dang, that’s right, there is an election coming up; the President’s here talking about it. Well, I’ll have to get out and vote.’ If the president hadn’t come down here, nobody would have remembered the election and Bush would’ve won.” A fellow from the Dallas Morning News opined that Agnew had lost Bush 50,000 votes. He offered no substantiation for his theory. Lan Bentsen, the Number Two son, said he thought Lyndon Johnson’s endorsement of his father had made an impact and that John Conolly’s help had made a big difference. “Agnew couldn’t hang the radiclib label on Dad,” said Lan. Someone else with no noticeable credentials allowed as how he thought the liberals had gone for Bentsen ’cause they hate Bentsen all right, but they hate Agnew even worse. 6 The Texas Observer “Agnew’s visit drove all those liberals right off the fence,” the fellow said. Most of the state’s pundits said the race hinged on turnout: Bush could have taken it if the turnout was, say, 1.8 million, but with 2.1 million trooping to the polls, it had to be Bentsen’s. Bush said he couldn’t think of anyone to blame but himself. And Bentsen said, “I believe the people of Texas really reacted against so many members of the administration coming down here. I’ve seen races where a president or a vice-president came in to campaign for someone, but so many of them came down here for Bush. They underestimated the independence of the people of the Lone Star State. IT IS the humble opinion of this reporter that the outcome of the Bush/Bentsen contest just goes to show you that there are more Democrats than Republicans in this state. Given a choice between Pillie Winkle and Winkie Pop, Texans’ll take the dude with the Democratic label. So much for instant analysis. A vignette: The Newsweek man is sweating like mad to get something quotable out of Lloyd Bentsen III. In desperation he asks, “But don’t you think it’s better to win than to lose?” Lloyd III replies, “Winning is not what’s important to us. You must understand that we didn’t go into this race to win, I mean just for the sake of winning. There’s so much to be done. We think of this as a beginning. “No, we’re not elated. We went into this thing to help build a little bit better world for you and your children. You can understand that in your heart, can’t you?” The man from Newsweek gagged and turned to the sociable younger son, who was hanging loose. One received the impression that the Bentsen people had really been prepared to lose this one, that they were almost afraid to believe that it was their win. They were cautious and kept saying late into the night, “All the returns aren’t in yet.” When CBS came in first with a 55 per cent win prediction for Bentsen, there was no jubilant hullabaloo at the Bentsen home in River Oaks, where dozens of the Bentsen clan and friends had gathered. “How often are those predictions right?” inquired Mrs. Lloyd, Jr. “Ninety-nine per cent accurate,” someone told her. “You mean they’re wrong one per cent of the time?” she gasped. Bentsen came to his downtown hotel headquarters about 10:30 p.m. to make a “victory” statement. Attempts to get a “Viva, Bentsen, viva” chant going were a tad thin. It faded quickly and subsequent efforts to revive it did not succeed. His speech was a model of moderation with one mordant exception. “George Bush has run a great and a strong race,” said Bentsen, “and if we win this race I expect that the President of the United States will find some responsible position for Mr. Bush after January.” IN GENERAL, it is interesting to note that Harris County went heavily Republican. \(A Bentsen aide explained this phenomenon by saying “The king is without honor in his own country.” and Eggers carried not only the traditionally strong Republican areas of the city, but bit deeply into liberal, labor and minority areas. Bentsen ran well in the state’s small cities and rural areas, especially in his .family’s fiefdom in Hidalgo County. San Antonio also went for him, leading the heavily pro-Bentsen returns from south Texas. One last minute development which had Bentsen workers all of a doo-dah was the appearance of lawn signs in the black sections of most of the state’s big cities on election day. The signs pictured Preston Smith with George Wallace and Lloyd Bentsen with Lester Maddox and were labeled, “The Red Neck Team.” The legend underneath the pictures implied even more clearly that the Democrats were racists. Had Bentsen not won, the cries of “Foul” would be ringing to the heavens. Preston Smith is a lame duck; unless he really meant that crack last week about running for a third term, which seems unlikely. We can expect Ben Barnes to go for the governorship in ’72, which, all things considered, is probably better than having to support him in an effort to get rid of John Tower. About the only state election result that produced unmitigated joy in the hearts of all good radiclibs was the defeat of Amendment 3. And a pox upon the house of all the timber magnates. One cheer for Bob Armstrong. Perhaps the largest single oddity in the results was that Eggers ran better than Bush. Someone must have noticed that Smith hasn’t been a real fireball as governor. Oh, Lord, let’s all go out and buy a drink.
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