Bush - Hance Campaign
State Sen. Kent Hance, winner of the Democratic primary, had grown up in Lubbock and gone to college there at Texas Tech University. Right off, he began accusing Bush of being an "outsider" and a dilettante "riding his daddy's coattails."
"My daddy and granddaddy were farmers," he would tell people on the stump. "They didn't have anything to do with the mess we're in now, and Bush's father has been in politics all his life...George Bush hasn't earned the living he enjoys. I'm on my own two feet and I can make my own living." ("The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty," page 263)
Learning How to Run: A West Texas Stumble
As Nicholas Kristof put it in the New York Times -- "George W. Bush was seething with frustration. Here he was, feeling as Texan as the chaw he liked to tuck under his lower lip, and he had to smile gamely while the audience snickered at him as an alien in cowboy boots.
It was 1978, and the 31-year-old Mr. Bush was trying to get a start in politics by running for Congress in West Texas. A candidate forum was under way, and his rival was needling Mr. Bush...about the TV commercial Bush dreamed up to demonstrate how energetic he was: it showed him jogging on a track. In those days, joggers were about as common in West Texas as Martians.
"The only time folks around here go running," Mr. Hance, the Democratic candidate, told audiences, "is when somebody's chasing 'em."
Missteps Along the Trail
...The most common interpretation of the 1978 campaign is that Mr. Bush was a wonderful campaigner and natural-born politician. But this seems to be a gloss burnished by time and the selective memories of Mr. Bush and his friends.
Here in West Texas people say that Mr. Bush was personable and a quick study but still made a series of mistakes, largely through inexperience.
For example, there was the day, early in the campaign, at a candidate forum on a farm near the town of Dimmitt. "Today is the first time I've been on a real farm," Mr. Bush said, beaming at the crowd.
Mr. [Jim] Reese [his opponent in the Republican primary], who was next to speak, began by saying: "I want to assure you, this is not the first time I've been on a real farm."
...Another problem was that while Mr. Bush never really had a clear campaign strategy, Mr. Hance did: he focused his campaign on emphasizing local ties and on casting Mr. Bush as a carpet-bagger from the East. One of Mr. Hance's most effective radio spots was this one, read by an announcer:
"In 1961, when Kent Hance graduated from Dimmitt High School in the 19th congressional district, his opponent George W. Bush was attending Andover Academy in Massachusetts. In 1965, when Kent Hance graduated from Texas Tech, his opponent was at Yale University. And while Kent Hance graduated from University of Texas Law School, his opponent" -- the announcer's voice plunged -- "get this, folks, was attending Harvard. We don't need someone from the Northeast telling us what our problems are."
Otice A. Green, a long-time political consultant who has worked on campaigns since 1956 -- including Mr. Hance's in 1978 -- said that Mr. Bush made a "good entry" into politics and was an impressive candidate. But, he added: "Kent Hance was one of the best I ever saw."
..."Yale and Harvard don't prepare you as well for running for the 19th Congressional district as Texas Tech does," Mr. Hance told audiences.
A Failure to Fight Back
Late in the campaign, disaster struck the Bush forces.
A university student was organizing a "Bush bash" to recruit young people from Texas Tech, and placed an advertisement in the student newspaper promising free beer. In fact, the event was tame and ended early, but the Democrats had their ammunition.
Five days before the election, a law partner of Mr. Hance wrote a public letter denouncing the Bush campaign for using alcohol to lure young people. The letter went to 4,000 members of the Church of Christ in Lubbock, and copies were put under windshield wipers of cars of people attending church services.
"Kent's opponent, young Mr. Bush, apparently is using tactics to secure votes which do not indicate the same high character," the letter declared. "Mr. Bush has used some of his vast sums of money in an attempt, evidently, to persuade young college students to vote for and support him by offering free alcohol to them."
The local newspapers wrote about the incident, quoting Mr. Hance as saying: "Maybe it's a cool thing to do at Harvard or Yale."
The quotes used in this scene, including the letter about the "Bush Bash" by his law partner, have all been ascribed to Mr. Hance for dramatic purposes.