George W. Bush appears headed to be the country's next president when the courts and elected officials untangle the disputed Florida vote by a Dec. 12 deadline, James Carville and William Kristol told a Junior League of Toledo Town Hall Lecture series audience last night.
But Mr. Carville, known for the aggressive “it's the economy, stupid'' campaign that carried President Clinton to office in 1992, worries that there will be trouble if a true vote count later discovers the wrong candidate took office.
“He might be the legal president,'' Mr. Carville told more than 1,000 ticket-holders at the Stranahan Theater at the Masonic Complex, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd.. “Think of it. The problem is if you send somebody in there without a thorough count, he might not be the elected president, but he might be the legal president.”
The problem will be governing, he said. Whether it's dealing with foreign governments, political adversaries, or the media, the thing that Washington operates on is fear, he said.
“If the other side is scared of you, you can get things done,” he said. “I can't think of anything that Bush has done during the election or now that would show me he has the political skills to rally the country and get things done.''
Mr. Kristol, a Republican conservative who was chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle and is editor and publisher of The Weekly Standard, offered a more sanguine assessment.
Campaign finance reform in some form could be on Mr. Bush's desk to sign as early as February if he is elected president, Mr. Kristol said. Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona will be pushing it, he said.
“Bush will have to decide whether to sign it.''
“If you're a Democrat, you have to be a little worried,'' he said. “With [President] Clinton, you had peace and prosperity and a successful administration in many ways. But his Vice President runs and he doesn't win and you don't take back either house in Congress.''
“If you are a Republican, you have to be worried,'' he said. “The Democrats have outpolled the Republicans three times in a row in presidential elections. That hasn't happened since [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt and Truman.''
Both analysts said vote watchers could expect more odd twists along the path to Dec. 12 when Electoral College members must be named. But both analysts stuck to predictions that Mr. Bush will prevail.
Mr. Carville and Mr. Kristol will speak again at 11 a.m. today at the Stranahan Theater.