THE CHANCES ARE that the two major parties will end up with presidential candidates who rose to the top trafficking on their papa's names.
Vice President Al Gore, the son of the former Democratic senator from Tennessee, and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the son of the 41st president of the United States, are leading the field at the moment. Although neither seems to have been exceptionally blessed in the personality department, perhaps both would have gotten where they have if their names had been Al Jones and George Smith.Political dynasticism - a factor in U.S. politics since John begat John Quincy Adams - appears to be running amok this year.
In Arizona, another Udall is running for Congress - former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall's son, Tom.
In Florida, former President Bush's other son, Jeb, is making his second run as a Republican for governor, while George W. has a lock on re-election in Texas.
And in Minnesota, a second generation of Humphreys, Freemans and Mondales will be colliding in the Sept. 15 primary for the Democratic Farmer-Labor party nomination for governor.
Listen to this field; it would be a dream ticket, except they're running against each other: Attorney General Hubert H. "Skip" Humphrey III, son of the late vice president; former state Sen. Ted Mondale, son of former Vice President Walter Mondale; and Hennepin County criminal prosecutor Michael O. Freeman, son of the former governor of Minnesota, Orville Freeman.
The modern political consultants' take on inherited office-seeking is that it has nothing to do with bloodlines, and everything to do with name recognition. A big name is just a commodity - worth millions of dollars in recognition that would otherwise have to be bought through television.
The factor often overlooked is environment. Christy Todd Whitman, the governor of New Jersey, grew up in a houseful of politicians when her father, Webster Todd, ran the Republican state committee. She lived and breathed politics.
Those who begin the quest for office with that kind of background start far ahead simply in their level of interest, involvement and education in the habits and chaos of public life.
When Mike Freeman came to Washington this week, he didn't come alone. He brought his parents.
Orville Freeman still looks energetic and chipper, but it was Jane Freeman who seemed to be kicking into gear for another big political race. She didn't have to be prompted to say Mike always stood out from the other famous sons in the race. "He was a good student, an Eagle Scout and the president of his fraternity," she declared, reciting a resume no mother forgets.
Mike Freeman, who concedes he's trailing the better known Humphrey at the moment, boasts endorsements from the party convention and from Sen. Paul Wellstone. He says the race of the big names hasn't really started.
"We're all kind of interwoven," says Freeman, noting he worked for both the elder Humphrey and Mondale campaigns. Right now everyone is making "Minnesota nice." But he'll be ready to butt heads late this summer. What his mother didn't mention was that he was also a lineman on the high school football team.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.