Bush leads GOP race for nomination

by Tammy Tucker

DES MOINES, Iowa — Despite his checkered background, George W. Bush is the clear front-runner of the GOP presidential hopefuls. Both moderates and conservatives support him and have high hopes that he is their ticket back into the White House.
Sixty-one percent of Republicans support Bush as the party’s nominee, according to a recent poll. In New Hampshire, he trails Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., but in electorally important states, such as Michigan and South Carolina, Bush has a comfortable lead.
He is expected to sweep Iowa in the nation’s first caucus Jan. 24, since McCain has chosen not to campaign there.
Descending from a long line of public servants, Bush has established a platform emphasizing “compassionate conservatism,” including increased parental involvement in schools, large tax cuts and federal funding for faith-based social services, specifically chemical-dependency treatment programs, homeless shelters, and after-school and abstinence-education programs.
“I am supporting him because his vision of compassionate conservatism is what Minnesota is all about and what this country needs,” St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman said.
Bush exploded onto the political scene when he was elected governor of Texas in 1994. Prior to that, Bush’s claim to fame was his father, former President George Bush, and his part-ownership of the Texas Rangers baseball team.
And now he has a good chance to become the president of the United States, according to several polls. Bush is leading both Democratic contenders, Vice President Al Gore and former Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., by at least nine points.
Bush’s faith plays an important role in his life and his plans for America. He opposes assisted suicide, same-sex marriage and abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger.
If elected president, Bush has said he would lower taxes by drastically cutting spending on federal programs. A recent New York Times editorial called the plan “fiscally reckless.”
Bush said science and market-driven technologies are the best solutions for environmental problems. He supports a moratorium against offshore drilling in California and Florida. He opposes breaching dams in the Pacific Northwest, as some environmentalists have called for, and he opposes the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty to curb global warming by cutting down on greenhouse emissions, according to his Web site.
Bush has proclaimed himself a born-again Christian, and during a debate he named Jesus as the “political philosopher” who has most influenced him. But many religious leaders have questioned his motives, saying he is using religion as a campaign tool without addressing religious problems in the country.
But Bush has also been endorsed by several conservative Christian leaders in Iowa, as well as many high-ranking Minnesota Republicans, including Sen. Rod Grams, Rep. Gil Gutknecht and Rep. Jim Ramstad. Ramstad and Coleman are Bush’s Minnesota campaign leaders.
Bush’s life hasn’t always been religion-oriented. Born in 1946, he was president of his fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon, at Yale during the 1960s. He was reportedly known for drinking too much, making mediocre grades, playing sports and occasionally engaging in disorderly conduct. He was a pilot in the Texas National Guard during the Vietnam War. In 1975, he received his master’s in business administration from Harvard Business School and returned to Texas to enter the oil business.
Drinking became a serious problem for Bush, and by the time he turned 40, he knew he had to make a change, he said in a 1999 Washington Post interview. With the help of the Rev. Billy Graham, Bush embraced Christianity and stopped drinking. Eight years later, he was the governor of Texas.
Bush was born into a political legacy. His late grandfather, Prescott Bush, was a U.S. senator and his brother, Jeb Bush, is Florida’s governor. If Bush is elected president, it will be only the second time in U.S. history that a father and son have both been elected to the country’s highest office.