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Out of One Race, Gramm Doing Fine in Second

March 8, 1996 GMT

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ One of Texas Sen. Phil Gramm’s first campaign stops after abandoning his run for the White House was at a car factory _ in South Carolina.

He’s so sure of re-election to the Senate that he’s out stumping for Bob Dole.

Gramm, 53, faces two little-known challengers in the GOP Senate primary during Super Tuesday voting in Texas, Florida and five other states. Four Democrats are seeking their party’s nomination to oppose him in November.

``What Long John Silver said on Treasure Island would be applicable in the Democratic primary: `Them that dies will be the lucky ones,‴ said Gramm’s press secretary, Larry Neal.

A Harte-Hanks Texas Poll published Thursday showed Gramm favored by 79 percent of likely GOP primary voters. His opponents, perennial candidate David Young and former state Sen. Hank Grover, got just 4 percent each.

Gramm led even his strongest Democratic opponent, political unknown Victor Morales, 53 percent to 28 percent. Morales, a Dallas-area teacher who runs his campaign from an aging pickup truck, was the front-runner with just 26 percent of likely Democratic voters.

The Democratic field also includes two congressman who resigned to challenge Gramm: Jim Chapman of Sulphur Springs and John Bryant of Dallas. The fourth Democrat is Houston lawyer John Odam.

A Democratic runoff in April seems likely, since a nominee needs more than 50 percent of the vote to win.

Gramm has both money and history on his side. In 1984, he got 58.5 percent of the vote; in 1990, he got 61.7 percent.

With a bank account of $3.45 million, he can run TV commercials at will, while the Democrats are forced to pick their targets carefully in a state with 20 television markets.

Campaign finance reports show Chapman with the most cash of the Democrats, $297,000. Bryant, a favorite of labor, had $135,000.

``It’s very discouraging for the Democratic Party that Phil Gramm has $3.5 million and the entire field on the Democratic side has a half-million between them,″ said Chuck McDonald, campaign manager for Odam, who had $191,000 in the bank.

In other voting, five other members of Texas’ House delegation aren’t seeking re-election this year. Of the seven open seats, just one belonged to a Republican, complicating Democratic efforts to win the 23 seats they need to regain control of the House from the GOP.

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Gramm could run in both the Senate and White House races under Texas’ unusual ``LBJ Law,″ which lets a senator or congressman run for re-election and for president or vice president simultaneously.

Gramm is the first Republican to use the law, which was passed for Lyndon B. Johnson in 1960 and was used by former Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen in 1976 and 1988.

Democrats had wanted Gramm to remain a presidential contender, hoping to capitalize on possible voter resentment from his dual races. By dropping out last month after losing in Louisiana and Iowa, Gramm appears to have robbed them of that issue.

Does he find angry voters back home?

``Naaaaw,″ Gramm said recently. ``They weren’t angry with Lloyd Bentsen when he did it twice. They weren’t angry with Lyndon Johnson. They still elected them.″