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GOP Support in Orange County Wavering at Critical Time for Bush With PM-Bush Bjt

June 19, 1992

IRVINE, Calif. (AP) _ Republican loyalty in Orange County, which helped elect the last two GOP presidents, is wavering just when George Bush needs it most because of the recession and the growing popularity of Ross Perot.

A Perot rally Thursday, upstaging Bush’s arrival here today, drew 5,000 supporters, many of them dissatisfied Orange County Republicans who see Bush as a business-as-usual insider and Perot as the agent of change.

″Bush isn’t doing anything for this country right now,″ said Sonja Comer of Mission Viejo, a registered Republican who came to the Perot rally. ″Perot may not be able to either. But I know Bush couldn’t.″

She’s not alone. Although Bush got 62 percent of the Orange County GOP vote in the June 2 primary, an exit poll for the Orange County Register found that voters would prefer Perot over Bush in November by a margin of 41 percent to 27 percent. Likely Democratic nominee Bill Clinton got 13 percent.

The polls show Bush’s support slipping. In April, Perot and Bush were in a statistical dead heat in Orange County.

The Perot petition drive also illustrates the Texas billionaire’s strength in Orange County.

Of the more than 1 million signatures gathered in California to put Perot on the ballot, 156,181 came from Orange County. That’s only about 15,000 people shy of the total number of voters who backed Bush in the county in the primary.

GOP leaders in this county where Republicans outnumber Democrats by nearly 2-1 say they aren’t worried about the Perot candidacy and contend that Republicans will remain faithful.

″I don’t think that there is any kind of a change from what the sentiment was four years ago,″ said Tom Fuentes, chairman of the Republican Party of Orange County. ″There’s still a vitality and enthusiasm for the president and for the Bush-Quayle team among local voters.″

Tradition is certainly on the GOP’s side. President Reagan won California on the strength of margins of victory of as high as 400,000 votes in Orange County. Bush beat Democrat Michael Dukakis in the state with the help of a 300,000-vote margin in Orange County.

But the Perot candidacy is just one change from 1988. In this county of affluent planned communities - as well as a large inner-city Hispanic population - the recession has taken its toll, as have defense cutbacks that have struck the small subcontractors.

Lucien D. Truhill, president and chief executive of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce, said the economic hard times are making business people more likely than usual to consider a candidate like Perot.

″The general feeling in Orange County is one of deep frustration about this economy,″ said Truhill. ″I’ve been with the chamber 30 years. I’ve been through a lot of very severe downturns in our economy ... but this one has lasted three years and it’s driving our business people right up the wall.″

And then there are people such as Vance Jochin, 48, a Fountain Valley Republican whose respect for Perot goes deeper than politics.

Jochin said he first read about Perot in 1968 when Jochin leafed through a Fortune magazine while sitting in a bus station on a long trip to Saigon to fight in the Vietnam War.

Jochin said he was impressed with Perot’s business savvy, and has been following Perot’s moves ever since

″I think he can get it done,″ said Jochin.

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