One of Ross Perot's former political advisers predicted Tuesday that the Texas businessman and one-time presidential candidate will run for the White House again in 1996.
"I think he's having the time of his life," Ed Rollins told a group of reporters. "I think he loves the roar of the crowd."
Rollins, who ran Ronald Reagan's 1984 presidential campaign, served as a Perot adviser in 1992 before resigning because the feisty candidate refused to follow his recommendations. Perot then got out of the race himself, returned several weeks later and won 19.7-million votes in November.
Lately, Perot has been traveling around the country, meeting with his supporters and, more often than not, criticizing President Clinton. Rollins, even though he's no longer affiliated with Perot, joined in with a remarkably bleak assessment of the new president Tuesday.
"I think this president has had as rough a start as any president," he said. "He totally underestimated the town. He totally underestimated the Congress and he totally underestimated the national news media."
Rollins said Clinton misunderstood the message of the 1992 election: that he won largely because Perot's deficit-cutting program and can-do business sense siphoned votes from incumbent George Bush.
In just five months, Rollins said, Clinton has backed off his campaign promises to cut taxes on the middle class and to govern as a new, moderate Democrat and has delayed his health care plan. Further, Clinton has been very willing to compromise with Congress _ evidence, Rollins believes, that he lacks "core beliefs" and can be easily manipulated by various interests.
"I don't think the man is handicapped by convictions," said Rollins, who is now a business consultant in Washington.
When Clinton took office, Americans' expectations were "very high," Rollins said. Rollins had predicted that Clinton could lock up an entire generation of younger voters. But he says Clinton's early missteps have only added to the country's disillusionment with politics.
Congressional Democrats will discover that when they return home later this summer, adding to their worries about their chances in the 1994 elections. "I think the danger to this president is his own party is going to run away from him," Rollins predicted, leaving Clinton unable to control his programs in Congress.
Meanwhile, Perot and a host of potential Republican candidates await 1996. That election may seem far off, but Senate GOP leader Bob Dole of Kansas, Texas Sen. Phil Gramm and former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander are already eyeing a campaign.
"If he runs in a two-way race he's never going to win," Rollins said of Perot. "If he runs in a three-way race, anything can happen."