Electoral odds

January 8, 1999

DEMOCRATS

Frontrunner: Al Gore

Albert Gore jr, vice-president of the US, will be 52 in November 2000. Product of a Tennessean political dynasty, he was educated at Harvard and Vanderbilt universities and served in Vietnam as an army reporter. Before entering Congress in 1979 he was variously a journalist, property developer and farmer. Elected to the Senate in 1985, he ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination three years later. In 1992 Bill Clinton chose Gore to be his vice-president. A serious-minded politician, who published Earth in the Balance, a book about the environment, he has led the administration's assault on the federal bureaucracy and has developed a line in self-deprecating humour .

Odds: Evens

Outsider: Dick Gephardt

Richard Andrew Gephardt, minority leader in the House of Representatives, will be 59 in November 2000. Educated at Northwestern and Vanderbilt universities, Gephardt is a lawyer and product of the city politics of his native St Louis. Elected to Congress in 1977, he ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 1988. In 1989, he led the House Democrats. His appeal is to traditional Democratic constituencies such as organised labour. While totally supportive of Clinton during the impeachment process, he has taken a sceptical attitude to the administration's trade policies, notably the creation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

Odds: 9 to 1 DEMOCRATS

Frontrunner: George W. Bush

George Walker Bush, governor of Texas, will be 54 in November 2000. Like Gore, Bush is a dynast - his father George was president in 1989-92 and younger brother Jeb was elected governor of Florida last autumn. Bush was educated at Yale and Harvard universities, but he offsets that with a fortune made, like his father's, in the Texas oil business. He has also been part-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball club. Elected governor of Texas in 1994 as a hardline right-winger, Bush astutely repositioned himself as a "compassionate conservative" in his re-election campaign last summer. He speaks fluent Spanish, giving him the chance to appeal to a traditionally pro-Democrat Hispanic constituency, but he has no track record outside Texas.

Odds: 7 to 2

Outsider: John McCain

John Sidney McCain III, senator from Arizona, will be 64 in November 2000. Another dynast, although his family tradition is naval service - he was born in the Panama Canal Zone. Educated at the US Naval Academy, he served in Vietnam, was tortured during five years as a prisoner of war, and was heavily decorated. Elected to Congress in 1985, he moved up to the Senate in 1987. McCain's war-hero charisma and broadly conservative views may be outweighed by unusual willingness to offend important Republican interests - he is unpopular with the tobacco lobby and is in favour of limiting campaign contributions.

Odds: 5 to 1

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