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banner Wednesday, 25 October, 2000, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Do Texans really love George W Bush?
George W Bush
George Bush: Has charisma but not all Texans like him
By Tom Carver in Austin

In Austin, the Texas state capitol building is rumoured to be taller than the United States Capitol in Washington, which suggests it probably is not.

Because if it was, the tourist sign would not say "rumoured to be". It is a small example of how Texans love to thumb their nose at Washington.

Bush isn't the man for the job

Texan voter Betty Sanders
"Don't mess with Texas" is the most common bumper sticker in these parts, more than Gore/Lieberman or even Bush/Cheney.

The message is: "We don't want Washington bureaucrats interfering here."

Which begs the question: if things are so good in these parts, why is George W Bush so keen to swap his governor's mansion for the White House?

Family connections

It is a question I have not found an answer to. At Yale, George W's contemporaries cannot remember him getting exercised about the great moral and political issue of the day: Vietnam. He went to Harvard Business School followed by a remarkably unimpressive career in the oil industry. Hardly the makings of an ambitious politician.

George W Bush
Mr Bush favours working nine to five
In 1988 he got his big break - he became the owner of a baseball team, the Texas Rangers. Until the age of 40, his friends say George W Bush was more interested in baseball than politics. Some, including his personal accountant, Robert McCleskey, suspect he still is.

"He didn't have any passion for running for Congress or for governor," he said in a recent interview.

Ask Texans why George Bush is running and they talk about his "bloodlines" and his name.

Glenn Maxey, a Texan Democratic senator, has another theory: that George Bush is running to avenge his father's defeat at the hands of Bill Clinton. It's personal. It's family.

Oil world

We are barrelling down Route 35 through the warm Texan night, being overtaken by a continual stream of trucks passing from Mexico north and listening to my Nanci Griffith tapes. You get a very different view of America from down here. But where does George Bush, son of a president, educated at Andover and Yale, fit into this world?

Vice-President Al Gore
Al Gore says Mr Bush has a poor record on the environment
He is a Texan in one real way: he has been in the oil "bidness". Several of the e-mails we received as part of our Election Challenge were about Mr Bush's environmental record as governor.

Glenn Maxey pointed out that Mr Bush had appointed the three board members of the state's environmental protection agency, and that all three were oil men.

Even Alan Sager, chairman of a local Republican Party has admitted that the environment is not one of Mr Bush's priorities. The governor did not initiate a single piece of environmental legislation in Texas until last year, when he was already a presidential contender.

"Look at Mr Bush's record on health care for children, the aged and the mentally ill. It is a disgrace," said an email from Marian Underwood in San Antonio.

Betty Sanders in Richardson, Texas said: "From my point of view Bush isn't the the man for the job. Stop cracking jokes and talk straight.

"On the other hand, Mr Bush is the first governor to be re-elected to back to back terms in Texas for a long time. He is going to take the state in a landslide in the presidential election, whereas Al Gore is fighting hard to hang on to his home state of Tennessee."

Many Texans share Mr Bush's dislike for big government. The Texan state legislature only sits every other year and even then only for 140 days. Yet in that time it has to sign off on an annual budget of $100 billion.

As Brent Hurley pointed out in an e-mail from New York, Governor Bush took the concept of "lite government" even further, insisting on two hour lunch breaks and telling aides not to schedule any meetings after 1700. It would be interesting to see how he dealt with a Middle East crisis on that timetable.

And on the matter of bumper stickers, John Kernick from New York said he was recently given one by a restaurant owner which read "Bush for Governor 2002".

They would not like that in Austin.

Click here to watch the next Election Challenge webcast by Tom Carver and Kevin Anderson from San Jose California at 0100 GMT (0200 BST)

This is the second in a series of reports by Washington correspondent Tom Carver written in response to questions from BBC News Online users as part of our Vote USA 2000 Election Challenge coverage.
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