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embargo needed to be kept in place…. I kind of got the impression that he was saying whatever people would like to hear.” Aware that Cuba received heavy subsidies from Russia, the student raised his hand. “I said, how do you justify the contradiction there? And he just looked at me for the longest time and didn’t say anything, and just stared.” Other students started tittering, recalls the attorney, and “it was like he was trying to make the wheels spin but they would not. It’s about that time that I figured out that George Junior is no mental giant.” Finally, Bush replied that “there were going to be a lot of hard questions and stuff he hadn’t figured out yet,” the attorney says. One thing he never figured out was how to gain enough ground in the north, and in November Bush lost 53 percent to 47 percent. There are several theories as to why. One hinges on a letter that friend-of-Hance George Thompson III sent to Lubbock churchgoers in the waning days of the campaign. An announcement had appeared in a student newspaper at Texas Tech, advertising a “Bush Bash” with free beer and Thompson accused Bush of trying to buy off young voters with alcohol. \(Was the ad itself actually placed by a Hance-sympathizing double agent? Ruth Schiermeyer, who was Republican Party Chairwoman in Lubbock County at the time, now claims, “His [Hance’s] campaign manager, on a flight years later, bragged to me that the young man who’d volunteered for me, who put in the ad, had really been working for him.” Responding to that charge, Green is a bit evasive: “We had organizations at Tech so naturally they might get it’s not clear whether the letter, sent to a couple thousand Lubbock residents, gave Hance his 6,700-vote edge. The second theory is that “Kent really won that election in the last ten days” as former Midland mayor and Republican National Committeeman Ernest Angelo puts it with advertisements that “pointedly, but lightheartedly, made George W. out to be a carpetbagger.” In particular, Hance accused Bush of getting most of his money from outside the district. Both cities ultimately voted for the local candidate, says Texas Tech’s Pearson. “In Midland, the Reporter-Telegram said in an editorial to ‘vote for Bush because he’s one of us,'” says Pearson. “And in Lubbock, the paper said, ‘vote for Hance, because he’s one of us.’ After the election Bush complained that Lubbock just voted for Hance because he was the local boy, but that’s what a big thrust of the campaign was…. It was a friends and neighbors vote.” Finally, there are those who say that no matter how hard he worked, Bush the Republican novice simply couldn’t have overcome Hance’s advantage as a popular Democrat who’d been in the state Senate, and whose Senate district largely overlapped with the Congressional one. “It was a long shot, and he made it close,” says O’Neill. “It wasn’t like we were running against Elmer Fudd.” Looking back, the precise reason for Bush’s loss seems less significant than the fact of the loss itself: in a race between a yuppie Republican and a good ol’ boy Democrat, the old-fashioned Texan prevailed. If the election were re-run today, who would win? Bush is now running for President, while Hance’s political career foundered in the eighties. The rural voting bloc that once went to bat for Hance has shriveled, and the bulk of next year’s Presidential campaign will surely be tailored to the sport utility vehicle crowd. Hance may have JUNE 25, 1999 been that lousy sort of populist who never let his roots get in the way of his ambitions \(and who pushed for Reagan’s tax bill while in Congress, served as an Oilman’s Friend on the Railroad Commission, and ended up part owner of Waste Control Specialists, a.k.a Nuclear passed on to a Washington pundit, a Dallas billionaire, and a professional wrestler and now that George W. Bush is staging his interminable national coming-out party there might be a few nostalgia ballots cast for him in the imaginary re-run of the ’78 race. Though he spent well over a year as a “tireless campaigner,” his friends now say that Bush was not unduly hurt by his loss in 1978. No one seems to remember his having been particularly upset by his subsequent lack of success in the oil business, either though he is described as having worked very hard at it. Yet to spend a dozen years in Midland, not succeeding at things, must have been a little frustrating. According to the man who stymied Bush that day at Texas Tech, he saw the candidate again after class. “I guess I felt a bit superior,” he recalls. “It had snowed in Lubbock quite a bit, and I was sitting out in front of the Beta House on Broadway Street with a couple of Betas. And George came down the street,” with a couple of his campaign workers. “I started to heckle him, and laugh, and I called him an idiot. He said something back that I didn’t understand, and then I decided to throw a snowball at him. I threw two or three, and one hit him in the chest. “Then he started across the street to come whup my butt. He didn’t back down,” the lawyer says. “But then his handlers held him back.” Maybe it was in Midland that he began to learn to hold back, to contain his frustrations, to avoid specifics, to keep smiling and shaking hands. Maybe he picked up some of that relentlessly optimistic spirit which prompted writer Sally Helgesen to call Midland “the apotheosis of the booster village.” That sort of hoorayism is nicely illustrated in a passage from Buzz Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights. It’s 1989, and presidential candidate George H.W. Bush gives a speech at Midland’s Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, full of Reagan-variety boilerplate about values, optimism, community, and so on. Even though oil prices had plummeted and the S&Ls were failing, and “the economy of Midland-Odessa had fallen apart during the Reagan-Bush administration,” Bissinger writes, Bush “created an image of the country that was still as good, as fundamentally sound as it had been in the fifties, when Bush and thousands of others had watched the American Dream blossom before their shining, ever-hopeful eyes.” The oilmen ate it up. In Midland, a city built by the uprooted upper class, the virtuous-capitalist mystique remains strong. If George W. Bush is a native Texan, then dewey-eyed boosterism is his native tradition. Four and a half years after he was first elected Governor, everyone is still asking who George W. is. The mystery lies not so much in the man himself, but in how the path to power can also be the path of least resistance, as it seems to be in his case. As for George W. Bush, he’s like his father same brand, but new and improved. More of a people person, we hear. More Texan. For surely the former President never said, as George W. Bush reportedly did, that he’d like to be buried in Midland. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11