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Vice President Eyes Strong Super Tuesday Showing Today

March 8, 1988

HOUSTON (AP) _ A confident George Bush cast his ballot in the Texas primary today, saying ″I’m encouraged″ about his prospects in the Super Tuesday Republican presidential contests.

″I’m not making any predictions,″ Bush told reporters as he prepared to go into a hotel polling place west of the downtown area.

Standing with his wife, Barbara, beside his limousine under threatening skies, Bush said, ″If we exceed our expectations or live up to them, I think we’ll be in good shape.″

Top campaign aides had said earlier that they thought Bush stood a good chance of winning at least 12 or 13 state contests today.

As Bush prepared to await the returns here and in 16 other states, his aides were getting ready for a series of campaign strategy sessions Wednesday.

A principal focus of those sessions will be how to continue the vote- getting momentum as the competition moves to Illinois and other states in the Midwest.

Asked today if he had gained ″Big Mo″ over his opponents, Bush replied, ″I never use that expression since 1980. I’ve learned since then.″

After upsetting Ronald Reagan in the 1980 Iowa caucuses Bush claimed he had achieved ″Big Mo.″ But then he went on to lose to Reagan in New Hampshire and subsequently pulled out of the race.

″I’m encouraged,″ Bush said today when asked how well he would do. ″But regardless of what happens here, the battle goes right on to Illinois.″

At his last public appearance on Monday, in Rogers, Ark., Bush said he was ″optimistic but not overconfident.″

Asked what he’d do if he didn’t win today, he replied: ″I’ll have to do what I did when I got kicked in Iowa - get up off the canvas, go out and fight hard.″ After his third-place finish in Iowa, Bush went on to a solid win in the New Hampshire primary eight days later.

After a day of campaigning in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, Bush flew to his adopted hometown to vote in the Texas primary and await the results.

But his top campaign aides and leading Southern strategists said they wouldn’t be surprised if the vice president captured some 600 of the roughly 700 delegates at stake.

Such a scenario, said campaign manager Lee Atwater, could present Republican presidential rival Bob Dole with a must-win scenario in next week’s Illinois primary.

″I don’t know what Dole does if he doesn’t win Illinois,″ Atwater said. A Dole campaign source agreed that the Kansas senator has to win Illinois and said the campaign is prepared to spend $500,000 on advertising there.

Bush seemed tired, but upbeat, as he toured an American Airlines maintenance facility at Tulsa’s airport.

″The person that clearly wins Super Tuesday is going to be the nominee of the party and, I think, the next president,″ he said. ″It’s critical.″

But Bush brushed aside talk of a sweep. ″You always wish for that, but I certainly would never predict that. It’s too much for anyone to expect.″

Atwater said he expected Bush to win 12 or 13 of the 17 GOP events, and deputy campaign manager Rich Bond said the campaign is prepared to spend ″whatever it takes″ to win Illinois.

Bush returned to Houston almost five months from the day he declared his presidential candidacy here, saying ″I mean to run hard and I mean to win.″

Bush is a native of Massachusetts and was raised in Connecticut, but he moved here with his wife, Barbara, in 1948, to learn the oil business. He became a successful oilman before venturing into politics as a county Republican chairman.

″I’m guardedly optimistic″ about Bush’s chances in Texas, state campaign political Kevin Moomaw said. ″Bob Dole’s campaign in Texas is non-existent. The competition in this state has been Pat Robertson.″

Moomaw said not even the forecast of heavy rains through much of Texas would put a damper on Bush’s prospects.

″We are warning everybody to go out and vote,″ he said. ″There is a potential for a turnout of 750,000.″

Ken Wright, Bush’s Florida campaign director, said ″we’re looking good. I’d like to see us come out with 70 of the 82 delegates. I think we’re going to do very, very well.″

Bush got a lift with his lopsided victory in South Carolina’s primary on Saturday. He had stumbled out of the starting gate, finishing behind Dole and Robertson in Iowa. But Bush bounced back to win by a comfortable margin in New Hampshire, and has done well since, although he did not compete in Minnesota and withdrew from South Dakota a week before losing that contest to Dole.

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