Candidate George W. Bush
Fri March 21, 2014 11:05 am

“I’ve never been a long-term planner about anything,” George W. Bush told this magazine in a May 1994 cover story. “I have lived my life with more of a short-term focus—on the theory that other interesting things would come up for me to do.” That candor (Bush insists that he didn’t decide to run until June 1993) is a revealing part of his personality, and it was an important aspect of a feature written by one of Texas Monthly’s most celebrated profile writers, Skip Hollandsworth. As the 1994 general election geared up between Bush and the popular incumbent, Democrat Ann Richards, Hollandsworth saw part of the campaign’s dynamic this way:

Bush is keenly aware that a lot of people, even those who swear allegiance to him, don’t know a thing about him as a politician except that he is the former president’s boy. George the Younger, he’s called. The First Son. The Shrub. Regardless of how much George W. Bush wants to talk about issues, the decisive factors in many voters’ minds are likely to be how they perceive him to be like his father and how they perceive him to be different—whether they believe he has his father’s strengths or his weaknesses.

A large part of the story is, in fact, introducing Bush to our readers, and a large part of that story is framing his life against the life of his father. Along the way there are stories about the oil business, George Mahon, Kent Hance, Roger Staubach, his drinking problem, the Texas Rangers, and often overlooked facts about his life (for example, that Bush got into Harvard Business School only after he had been turned down by the University of Texas Law School or that the Midland Country Club began awarding a George W. Bush prize to the worst-dressed golfer at an annual tournament). The best stories are offered by his mother, Barbara Bush, who described him as, “A wonderful, incorrigible child who spent many afternoons sitting in his room, waiting for his father to come home to speak to him about his latest transgression.”

Of course, this story can’t be read without the pressure and emotions about what would come: six years in the Governor’s Mansion followed by eight tumultous years in the White House. But his candidacy in 1994 marked one of the significant turning points in the state’s political history. Bush went on to defeat Richards in November 53 to 45, and that was the last election in which Democrats would win a statewide office.

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