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The Politics Of Drought

Two-thirds of the state of Texas is bracing for another drought -- it would be the third in about four years.

In Texas, a drought is especially serious. Although agribusiness is less crucial to the state's overall economy, it's still important -- and still part of the core of the state's character. Cotton and cattle, vegetables so big you can play basketball with 'em: This is what Texas is about.

The impact of more dry weather on the Texas economy will have an impact on other state economies and the national economy. But a serious drought could have an effect on national politics, too.

How so? Consider that, according to early opinion polls, the leading contender among potential Republican presidential candidates in the year 2000 is Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Bush is popular in Texas. But because he's never held national office -- or any other elective office than the Texas governorship -- a strong state economy is a big part of what he'll be running on in any national campaign.

He must remember another successful governor -- Michael Dukakis -- who opposed his father in the 1988 presidential elections. Dukakis pointed to the so-called "Massachusetts Miracle," a strong state economy. But that economy faltered badly during the campaign-- and Dukakis lost.

For politicians as for farmers, there's always hope that the next election, like the next crop, will turn out better. But right now, farmers aren't the only Texans who are praying for rain.

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