Helmut Kohl's re-election campaign showed the German chancellor in a new, self-assured style: more elegantly dressed, relaxed, a better speaker.
And the crowds were bigger, too, giving Kohl more enthusiastic receptions than ever in his eight years as chancellor.Having delivered the unification of East and West Germany in record time, Kohl had been heavily favored all along to win a third four-year term.
But in the last four weeks of the campaign, the 60-year-old Kohl still made 28 campaign appearances, doing what he likes the best: working the crowds and winning elections.
Kohl became chancellor in October 1982, when a switch of coalition alliances enabled him to form a government at the head of his Christian Democratic Union. He was confirmed in national elections in 1983 and 1987.
At first he was regarded as a blunder-prone provincial politician who spoke with a distinct local accent. But Kohl has risen to the status of a respected international statesman, leader of a country that will play a political role finally equal to its economic might.
"In many fields of politics, we are in a leading position in Europe and in the world," Kohl said recently.
"I like to be underestimated. I've managed very well for 30 years by being underestimated," Kohl likes to say.
His whirlwind, relentless drive to achieve quick unification paid off when Germany became one fully sovereign state on Oct. 3, with Kohl as chancellor.
His new image is reflected by trendier, double-breasted suits and the virtual disappearance of Kohl jokes.
Cartoons used to depict Kohl floating in outer space while aides grappled with problems, or flipping coins to make decisions. Now the 6-foot-5 chancellor is more likely to be depicted as a smiling figure towering over the German landscape, as the newsweekly Der Speigel showed him in a pre-election cover story on "the lucky giant."
The chancellor and his wife, Hannelore, have two sons, Walter and Peter. He is a staunch Roman Catholic who often stresses family values.
Kohl is said to feel uncomfortable abroad but goes to Austria for his annual slimming cure. He is not fluent in any foreign language, but has been heard using some English.
Kohl has said this may not be his last election and that his goal remains the complete unification of Europe by the year 2000.