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Victory restores Bush dynasty to Washington

(CNN) -- Texas Gov. George W. Bush's victory in this year's unprecedented presidential election caps a career in public office that has lasted only six years, but Bush himself has benefited from a lifetime's immersion in a political family.


In an extraordinary late night ruling on Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed 7-2 to reverse the Florida Supreme Court's decision ordering a statewide recount of thousands of questionable ballots -- effectively ceding Florida's 25 electoral votes and the presidency to Bush exactly five weeks after Election Day.

With his narrow defeat of Vice President Al Gore on the campaign and legal fronts, Bush has become the first son of a president to himself win the White House since John Quincy Adams -- the son of John Adams, the second American president -- was elected in 1824.

Though the scion of a political dynasty rooted in the Connecticut gentry, Bush grew up in the West Texas oil patch and came late to the family legacy.

He made an early, unsuccessful run for Congress in 1978, then spent most of the next decade trying to carve out a place of the oil industry, like his father had.

But the oil business fell on hard times in the 1980s, and his company ended up being bailed out not once, but twice. By then his father, President George Bush, was vice president and poised to seek the White House: The younger Bush served as an adviser to his father's campaign, but left Washington soon after his father took office in 1989.

He returned to Texas and with the help of family friends, Bush became part owner and managing partner of major league baseball's Texas Rangers. Bush borrowed $600,000 to buy a 2 percent share of the team. He served as the owners' public face, making himself a highly visible presence at Rangers' games.

In 1994, he challenged the popular, acerbic Democratic governor of Texas, Ann Richards. Richards mocked him as "Prince George" and suggested that he was coasting on his father's name: Bush noted that he inherited all of his father's enemies "and one half of his friends."

His parents stayed out of the race for the most part, but helped him raise more money than any other candidate for office in Texas history. He stuck to a simple, four-point program: education, juvenile justice, tort reform and welfare reform.

He beat Richards in convincing fashion -- but in Texas, where the governor's office is relatively weak, he had to reach out to Democrats in the state Legislature to get his programs through. His record of cooperation with state Democrats became an integral part of his presidential campaign, promoting the GOP contender as someone who could work as "a uniter, not a divider" to get things done.

Talk of Bush as a presidential candidate even before he won his second term as governor of Texas in 1998. In March 1999, he established an exploratory committee to set up a campaign; he formally announced his candidacy June 12, 1999 in Des Moines, Iowa, while stumping in advance of the Iowa caucuses.

He easily won the Iowa event -- but without facing his major rival for the Republican nomination, Arizona Sen. John McCain, who sat out the first contest of the 2000 election year.

McCain's "Straight Talk" theme, his record as a Navy pilot and prisoner of war in Vietnam and dogged campaigning led to a win in the New Hampshire primary that stunned the Bush camp. But Bush's supporters in the conservative establishment, both within and outside the Republican Party, quickly mobilized to give the Texas governor the edge he needed in later primaries.

Bush's battle with McCain was marked by one major stumble: A campaign stop at South Carolina's controversial Bob Jones University, which at the time forbade interracial dating and denounced the Roman Catholic Church. The event raised questions about Bush's commitment to "compassionate conservatism" even has he rallied the state's GOP base to win the South Carolina primary.

McCain used the Bob Jones rally to draw support from independents and Democrats who helped him beat Bush in Michigan's primary. But McCain made his own mistake in attacking the religious conservative leaders who heavily supported the Texas governor, and by the "Super Tuesday" primaries in March, his presidential hopes were finished.

In both the primaries and the general election campaign against Gore, Bush had to overcome criticism of his record in Texas, questions about a reckless youth and criticism of his record in Texas.

Bush grew up in Midland, but like his father, he attended prep school at Andover and college at Yale. He had an unremarkable academic career, graduated in 1968 and joined the Texas Air National Guard, where he was trained as a fighter pilot. He left in 1973 to attend Harvard Business School, earning a masters' in business administration.

It was a time Bush has referred to as his "nomadic" years. He worked in a few political campaigns, and there was plenty of tennis, golf, dating and drinking. Rumors of drug abuse and questions about his service in the Guard during the Vietnam era failed to have much of an impact on his presidential candidacy, however.

During the campaign, Bush was intentionally vague on questions about his partying days: He admitted that he drank too much as a young man, and he quit at age 40 amid a spiritual awakening that saw him declare himself a born-again Christian. The last-minute discovery that he had pleaded guilty to drunken driving in Maine in 1976 appeared to have little impact on the Republican nominee's campaign when it broke barely five days before Tuesday's election.

Bush began to settled down 1976, when he met Laura Welch, a public school librarian, at a barbecue in Midland: They were married three months later, and their twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, were born in 1981.

As he did when he ran for governor, Bush has concentrated his campaign on a few key issues: tax cuts, education, partial privatization of Social Security, boosting the military, restoring civility to politics -- and returning "honor and dignity" to a White House his partisans see as having been defiled by President Clinton's affair with a former intern, among other GOP complaints.

Bush managed to convince voters that he is more than the president's son, but worthy of leading the nation in his own right. He ran against an incumbent vice president in an economic boom year, and faced Gore's withering criticism that Bush's economic proposals would bring back the economic doldrums that helped cost his father the presidency in 1992.

Gore and other Democrats criticized Bush's record on education, the environment and the death penalty -- Texas leads all U.S. states in the number of executions carried out. He shot back by portraying the eight years of the Clinton-Gore administration as a time of partisan gridlock and paralysis, telling delegates to the Republican National Convention in his acceptance speech, "They had their chance. They have not led. We will."

Such a challenge could very well be the most diffucult of the Texas governor's career, given the highly-charged partisan atmosphere caused by five weeks of hard fought legal battles over who won the election November 7.

One certainty that did emerge on Election Night was a more evenly divided Congress. Republicans retained narrow control of the House, but the Senate is split 50-50, with former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney's election as vice president giving the GOP nominal control over the upper chamber.

In such an atmosphere, Bush will become the first president in more than a century to take office without also winning the largest share of the popular vote. But with the Electoral College and final legal verdict in his favor, he will now finally have his chance to lead.


Wednesday, December 13, 2000



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