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Now itís Clinton vs. Bush in Texas

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June 20, 2000 


WASHINGTON, (AP) -  For the third time this year, President Bill Clinton is venturing onto Gov. George W. Bush's Texas turf, in hopes his presence will sweeten the Democratic Party's courtship of pivotal Hispanic voters.


Clinton was traveling Monday to Houston and Austin, Texas for three events to raise dlrs 1 million for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He also was addressing a fund-raiser for the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, which conducts voter registration and education campaigns among Hispanics in 12 states and Washington, D.C.


The White House said Clinton's main goal was to try to bolster Hispanic turnout for Democratic candidates from Vice President Al Gore to those opposing Texas' Republican senators, Phil Gramm and Kay Bailey Hutchison.


"They are a swing vote. We are making a pitch," said White House spokesman Jake Siewert. "The president and vice president have an outstanding record of helping Hispanic families build better lives for themselves."


Those efforts by the lame-duck Clinton in a state where Bush, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is wildly popular, drew something close to a yawn from the Republican National Committee.


"Gov. Bush is winning Texas just like he's winning the rest of the country right now," said RNC spokesman Chris Paulitz. "I don't think Gov. Bush or we at the RNC would feel any threat by President Clinton going down there."


As for Democratic efforts to unseat Gramm and Hutchison, Paulitz said the senators are "as untouchable as Tony Soprano," referring to a lead character in the popular television series on a mobster and his family.


Polls show Gore trailing badly in Texas, pulling in only 23 percent of likely voters while Bush enjoys 66 percent to 70 percent.


The trip is Clinton's third to Texas since January, when he headlined a fund-raiser in Houston. He visited Dallas and McAllen, Texas, in February.


In an address to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus last week, the president noted that pursuing Latino voters is "now fashionable for both parties." He drew distinctions between the way Democrats and Republicans have handled issues dear to those voters.


In particular, he took aim at Gramm and Hutchison for blocking one of his judicial nominees, El Paso lawyer Enrique Moreno. The senators say Moreno lacks the necessary experience for the judgeship.


It is rhetoric that aides said Clinton would reiterate before the voter project, a non-profit, non-partisan group that has registered and educated voters in 200 communities in the Southwest.


"We were divided all the way along on economic policy, on crime policy, on welfare policy, on education policy, the environmental policy. And the evidence is in," Clinton said last week. "The best days for Hispanic America are still ahead. But we have got to make the right choices."


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