Only eight more months of Bush vs. Gore

Super Tuesday merely confirmed the inevitable - that we'll be forced to choose between Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore when we vote for president next November unless you count Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan as a serious contender, and I don't.

Almost a year ago, I wrote that the Republicans would nominate Bush and the Democrats would choose Gore barring an unexpected surprise or two. For a while, it appeared that their insurgent challengers, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, respectively, might have a chance, but both of them self-destructed.

McCain, a genuine war hero, revealed an unappealing mean streak and the bright but charisma-challenged Bradley never got his presidential act together and didn't win a single primary. So now establishment candidates Bush and Gore describe themselves as "outsiders" and "reformers."

Lance Morrow of Time magazine summarized the electoral process so far: "John McCain and Bill Bradley gave the race its resonance - its conflict, its moral fire, its nastiness. Now, Poof!, both of the interesting men appear to be gone. And we are left with Gore and Bush, the sons, the dynastic duo, the Expected Ones." Morrow wrote that we'll be "gasping for breath and suffering from third-degree media burn" by November. The campaign has already gone on too long and Gore proposes two debates a week. Help!

Personally, I'd like to hear more from Buchanan and GOP outsider Alan Keyes, not because I agree with them but because they're lively debaters and speak in complete sentences; however, they have no chance of winning the presidency. That leaves us with Bush and Gore, a couple of baby boomers from political dynasties.

There are serious questions about whether Bush is smart enough and mature enough to be president. And I'm still trying to figure out which Al Gore is running for president - the competent, experienced vice president or the Weird Al who invented the Internet and lauded Bill Clinton as one of our greatest presidents.

I kept a close eye on neighboring California as Super Tuesday results rolled in. Bush beat McCain 2-1 among registered Republicans there and held his own among Hispanics and independents, two groups he needs in order to win California in the fall.

Gore won every income, education and age group while Bradley did best with the richest and most educated voters.

In Nevada, the latest Las Vegas Review-Journal poll shows that Nevadans favored Bush over McCain by a 51-31 margin and Gore over Bradley 56-30. In a Bush-Gore general election matchup, the governor leads the veep 46-38 with 16 percent favoring third party candidates or undecided. That's good news for Republican Senate candidate John Ensign.

At least two of more than 20 initiative measures on the California primary ballot were of particular interest to Nevada voters. Californians overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1A, which permits unregulated Nevada-style gambling on Indian lands. Despite some Pollyannas who say the measure won't hurt the Reno-Tahoe region, Wall Street gaming industry analysts estimate that 1A could cost northern Nevada more than $230 million dollars in lost revenue over the next four years. Reno could lose more than 20 percent of its gaming revenue and Lake Tahoe about 15 percent.

Even worse, some Nevada casino owners who opposed a similar California ballot measure two years ago have adopted an "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach to Indian gambling. Las Vegas interests are now bankrolling three proposed new Indian casinos, two near San Diego and one on Interstate 80 near Auburn in Placer County. A Minnesota company is backing a proposed $100 million casino complex off Highway 50 roughly halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.

Opportunistic casino operators won't think twice about taking Nevada jobs to California; they go where the gamblers are because that's where the money is. And don't forget that Indian casinos "police themselves" and don't pay any taxes - nice work if you can get it.

On another subject, Californians approved Proposition 22, which outlaws homosexual "marriages." A similar measure may be on the Nevada ballot in the fall. I fail to see the need for such a measure, however, since laws in both states already define marriage as a union between a man and a woman and homosexual marriages aren't legally recognized anywhere in the United States. So what's the point?

Frankly, I'm much more concerned about Sen. Joe Neal's gambling tax petition and the "medical marijuana" initiative that we'll vote on again in November. Gambling taxes should be raised but not doubled, as Neal proposes.

And I fear that the marijuana measure would open the doors to the legalization of more dangerous drugs. It should be noted that a recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health concluded that regular pot smoking significantly increases the risk of heart attacks. Baby boomers take heed.

Although we won't go to the polls for another six months, these issues are worth thinking through before we mark our ballots in the fall. In the meantime, let's hope that George W. Bush and Al Gore conduct a campaign worthy of the presidency of the United States.

Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.


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