Probably no one was surprised that Texas Governor George W. Bush picked up nearly a third of the votes in the Iowa Republican Straw Poll on August 14. For one thing, Mr Bush has amassed, if not precisely the lion's share of early donations to GOP Presidential hopefuls, certainly a great deal more than the smaller cats who finished farther back, and for another, a number of fellow governors (including Oklahoma's Frank Keating, who is panting for an office in the next administration) have given thumbs up to their Texas colleague.

Steve Forbes, who finished second, raises a different finger, pointing out that two-thirds of the voters did not vote for Mr Bush. And the relatively brief history of this event carries a warning of its own: no winner of the Iowa poll has ever gone on to win the GOP nomination, let alone the Presidency. So despite front-runner status, the Bush campaign has no time to rest upon its laurels not that the Bush campaign actually has any laurels upon which to rest.

Most surprising to me is the comparatively strong finish by Gary Bauer, who swept past all the other tools of the Religious Right to take a fairly convincing fourth, decisively ahead of Pat Buchanan, and possibly derailing the nascent campaign of the beloved J. Danforth Quayle. Conservative Christians have been a fractious bunch in recent years, despite their best efforts to present a unified front, and of all the banners under which they could unite, Bauer's appeared to be the least promising, appealing almost exclusively to fetus fetishists and defenders of the doctrinaire, the loudest group of Republicans to be sure, but also the one easiest to dismiss. Still, the Christian right's modus operandi has always been to operate as far below the media radar as possible, and Bauer's profile just barely qualifies as bas-relief.

The election, be it noted, is more than 14 months away. In recent years, news organizations have paid scant attention to issues and answers, preferring to concentrate on the horse-race aspects of the campaign. I suppose it's too late now to remind them that most horse races run two minutes or less.

The Vent

15 August 1999

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 Copyright © 1999 by Charles G. Hill