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COUNTDOWN TO SUPER TUESDAY: Who’s Backing Whom?

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The big one-in fact, the biggest one ever, the Super Tuesday Primary-is just six months away, and politicians in both parties are scrambling to pull the artillery into place for the biggest pre-convention nominating event in American history. On March 8, voters in fourteen states including Texas go to the polls to reveal their presidential preferences.

Locally, Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt has won over the support of his fellow congressman Martin Frost. He will have offices open in Austin and Dallas by fall. Local Gephardt backers include investment bankers George Clark and Richard Fisher. He can probably overcome his name-recognition problem, particularly if he does well in the February caucuses in his neighboring state of Iowa, but he’ll have a bigger problem with old-line liberal Democrats-the folks who lick the envelopes and answer the phones in Democratic campaigns-because of his opposition to federal funding of abortion and his past support of a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.

Former Gov. Bruce Babbitt of Arizona is also putting together a rudimentary organization in Texas and is very attractive to leaders in the Dallas Hispanic community, mainly because he speaks Spanish fluently. Party insiders say there’s also budding interest in Senators Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee and Sam Nunn of Georgia (who has said he will not run). There’s been little outward interest or signs of organizational life locally on behalf of Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois or Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

Which leaves the Rev. Jesse Jackson. He has no formal organization yet in Dallas County, but he is the only candidate with residual support and name recognition left over from 1984. That year, he made a respoctable second-place showing in the Democratic caucuses in Dallas County, despite splitting the black vote with Walter Mondale. In a divided, field, he could turn a heavy black turnout into a first-place finish locally.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, George Bush no longer looks like a foregone conclusion for local Republicans, in spite of his Texas ties and his tenure as Ronald Reagan’s vice-president. The extreme right edge of the party has never liked. Bush, and now a whole lot of candidates and their supporters are trying to shake loose what they perceive as soft support for the front-runner. Still, the Bush campaign is out in front organizationally, both in Texas and Dallas. Operating out of Austin, Bush’s campaign directors expect to he organized down to the precinct level by early September.

If Paul Laxalt’s campaign actually materializes, the former Nevada senator’s Texas effort will probably be run out of Dallas, according to local coordinator Roy Bailey. Delaware former Gov. Pierre du Pont has two strong local supporters, former press secretary Fred Stern and brother-in-law Barron Kidd, who are evangelizing on his behalf among traditional Republicans.

Senator Bob Dole of Kansas has lined, up the support of Dallasite Tom Pauken, two-time congressional candidate and former director of Reagan’s Action Agency. For now, Dole’s people are concentrating on Iowa and New Hampshire and don’t foresee any Dallas activity until sometime in the fall. Republican congressman Steve Bartlett is expected to remain neutral in the race, but his former aide, Jim DePtetris, is working for Rep. Jack Kemp, who expects to open a staffed, office in Dallas by the end of August. And Kemp, who but for the toss of a coin would have come to Dallas as quarterback for Lamar Hunt’s Dallas Texans way back in 1961, has Tom Landry’s support as well.

Except for Bush’s, the most organized. Republican campaign in the state is that of television evangelist Pat Robertson. A paid staff is already operating out of state headquarters in Bedford, and state director Karen Cameron expects to have a coordinator working in almost every county in Texas by Septemher 17, with regional offices covering the entire state by October 1.

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