Governor Weld Wins Second Term Easily Over Roosevelt

News Analysis

In this year's race for governor, Bill Weld was never running simply to beat Mark Roosevelt and win back his seat in the State House.

Weld was running to impress.

And now that Republicans have done the impossible--winning the majority in both houses of Congress--and Clinton seems to have planted himself on the fast track to a one-term presidency, Weld's behavior this campaign season begs one question:

Weld in 1996?

All the signs of this year's race point to a Weld presidential candidacy: a changing GOP, for one. The party is slowly trading the rightism that produced Pat Robertson and "family values" in 1992 for expanding acceptance of abortion and gay rights.

And Weld himself, for another. He has been campaigning too hard for a candidate so heavily favored.

The governor spent $2.5 million dollars this year on a television ad campaign designed to slam an opponent who never came within 30 points of his standing in the polls.

Even as he flooded the television waves with caustic criticism of his opponent, Weld seemed to take the race in stride.

When Roosevelt drove him into a corner at their first debate two weeks ago, Weld tossed off his challenger's victory with a shrug of his shoulders.

While Roosevelt was frantically playing up to the voters on Election Eve, Weld was playing squash.

But in spite of Weld's clear lead over Roosevelt and his nonchalant approach, his ads continued to run and the expense continued to mount.

Weld wasn't running the ads for his own benefit. He was running them to enlarge his already vast margin of victory, to prove he can succeed in a future race that won't be quite so clear cut.

He was running them to prove he'd be a good candidate for president.

Though Weld would not comment last night on whether or not he has his sights set on the White House, the possibility of his presidential candidacy has become a matter of common knowledge.

Even Roosevelt aides, responding to the universal GOP chant of "Four more years!" said "two more years" would be a more realistic view of Weld's second term, which they expect to be cut short by his bid for the presidency.

As one aide suggested, Massachusetts is too small a pond for a "big fish" like Weld.

Weld has indeed taken traditionally Democratic Massachusetts by storm, winning the distinction of being the first Republican to be reelected to the governor's seat in 28 years.

"We've come a long way since four years ago, when Bill Weld and I were elected in a cliffhanger that would have given Sylvester Stallone a case of vertigo," said Weld's running mate, A. Paul Cellucci.

Massachusetts has certainly operated is arms to Weld. But even the staunchest Weld Democrats question whether or not Weld would be greeted so warmly once he stepped outside of the state's borders.

"They could use a guy like Bill Weld says Boston resident Jeff P. Coakley. But the national party is still ruled so much by the right that he won't have much of a chance."