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Washington, D. C. THE FIX IS IN. After three years of riding waves of illusory prosperity, the Reagan eco nomic recovery is taking on water. As I write, the past week has seen stock prices plunge over 500 points. The prime rate for lending money continues to edge up, further eroding the market for major consumer items like autos and housing. Potentially catastrophic budget and trade deficits cloud the horizon, and portend greater social instability as the ranks of the working poor continue to grow. All this bodes well for the Democrats, naturally. For history teaches that when all the glamour issues are put on the table, when the candidates have finished debating disarmament, abortion and foreign intervention, it’s the economy that settles all scores moderate Americans, the ones who form the swing vote in any national election, vote their pocketbooks. And the Democratic Presidential candidates have at least begun to address the need for major structural reforms in the nation’s economy. When the campaign reaches Texas in March, Lone Star voters will have the opportunity to play a central role in the nominating process. Texas is now part of the so-called Super Tuesday primary sweepstakes, when every state in the South puts its delegates on the block. And there’s no doubt the new primary date has changed our stature on the campaign trail: according to Ed Martin, executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, the state is seeing more candidates earlier in the year than in any previous election. Certainly, the Dems are treating Texas and her problems with especial deference. But this enhanced prestige in the eyes of the Presidential contenders can hardly be attributed to Texas having cast its lot with the South a region whose needs in many cases are radically different from those of our state. Texas’ current electoral importance is a function of the revised, early primary date under the new system we’re the first big-vote state to weigh in, and if we Richard Ryan is the Observer ‘s Washington correspondent. had wanted to attract more notice we should have simply moved up the primary. As it is, we’ve diluted the significance and unique character of our problems by running with the South. The people who, benefit from our entry into the Super Tuesday pack are naturally those who pushed the concept in the first place: conservative Democrats. The Super Tuesday strategy was the brainchild of the Democratic Leaderbunch of neo-Dixiecrats and Boll Weevils who have been trying for years to persuade the Democrats to act more like Republicans. This has been a bad year for the DLC, which everyone had expected to field a Presidential candidate Georgia Senator Sam Nunn and former Virginia Governor Charles Robb, both DLC founding members, being possibilities most frequently mentioned. When these two lusterless crypto-Republicans wisely stayed clear of a race they were sure to lose, the DLC, all hyped-up with no one to run, had to do something of significance; corralling states like Texas and Oklahoma for Super Tuesday became their way of muscle-flexing. The DLC liked the idea of a regionwide primary because they believed that it would draw disenchanted conservative read “white” Southern Democrats back to the party by inviting them to take part in an important vote. By getting the South and parts of the Southwest to vote as a block, the DLC theorists believed that they would create a regional consciousness among the middle-class, middle-of-the-roaders that the DLC could dominate and direct. Now, I’m sure the goal of bringing middle-class white Southerners back to the fold is admirable, but the way to do that is not by moving the party to the right; the trick is reimmersing disaffected voters in the populist traditions of the party. People who don’t feel comfortable with those traditions with politics that favor the working-class and the down-cast ought to remain on the Republican side of the ballot. One person who understands this well is long-time Democratic pollster Vic Fingerhut. \(Fingerhut, who has done opinion polling for unions and unionbacked candidates for some time, is one of the chief strategists for the Simon Fingerhut has been advancing the common sense proposition that Democratic candidates win elections running on Democratic issues social security, jobs, health care and lose them running on Republican issues building a strong defense, cutting the deficit \(Fingerhut argued strongly against the the DLC’s attempts to drive ‘Southern and Southwestern Democrats to the right: “The South is more populist than people realize. The problem with the notion that the South is right-wing is that there’s no evidence for it It sure doesn’t explain how people like Wyche Fowler and Terry Sanford [the newly elected Democratic senators from Georgia and North Carolina, respectively] got where they are.” Indeed, the party leadership in Texas tends to be more conservative than the voters themselves, who periodically throw off the yoke of Democratic bagmen and elect populists like Ralph Yarborough. Given the election system that prevails in Texas 25 percent of the delegates are chosen at local caucuses the night of the primary activists are going to have something to say about who walks away from the Lone Star contest with the lion’s share of the spoils. As Bernard Craighead, the Southern Coordinator for the Democratic National Committees, says, “Whoever wins in Texas will be the person who does the best job getting their message across to the respected party activists. Bringing in an outside organization won’t do it; the candidate has to organize in the state.” Who then among the Democrats benefits the most from the peculiar dynamics of the Texas primary? Dick Gephardt looks strong he has nine members of the Texas Congressional delegation behind him, and has done far and away the best job fundraising in the state. Still, if he runs second in Iowa and a distant third in the New England races, he might be virtually out of the contest by Super Tuesday. Dukakis could be the front-runner in March, and Democrats Face the Texas Primary By Richard Ryan THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5