Meet the whiter than white Senate candidate - aged 79

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The Independent Online
ALL ACROSS the land last night, Americans were in despair. The President who seemed to have done so much to nurture their economy now appeared to be heading for oblivion. Who, in these days of blow-torch moral and financial scrutiny in Washington, can aspire to occupy the White House and survive without scandal?

Meet Fred Tuttle, the new giant of the American political scene. Well, he is not quite there yet, but he may be on the way. On Wednesday night, Mr Tuttle scored a resounding victory in the Republican primary in Vermont to stand against incumbent Patrick Leahy to take a seat in the US Senate.

Mr Tuttle is not a professional politician, but, rather, a breath of bucolic fresh air. A dairy farmer, with no political experience, he is 79 years old and uses a walking frame. At the outset of his campain he pledged to spend $16 on it and not a cent more. And if you think he is a joke, consider this: his victory was achieved over one Jack McMullen, a millionaire businessmen who spent $400,000 on the race.

Now it is possible, of course, that Mr Tuttle will not prevail over Senator Leahy, a Democrat, when the Senate race proper takes place in November. It does not help that Mr Tuttle has himself declared that he likes Mr Leahy very much. But having won his party's nomination he is obliged to put up a fight.

If Mr Tuttle, who has never been seen out of silage-stained blue denim overalls, wins in November, he will take a seat in the Senate which, come next year, might very well end up making the final judgement over President Clinton at the denouement of impeachment proceedings. And from the Senate, who knows where the political tides might take him?

His appeal as a potential resident in the White House is surely obvious. At his age, with Zimmer and all, any hanky panky in the Oval Office would seem almost out of the question. And who could be better immunised from allegations of campaign finance corruption than a man with a $16 election coffer?

One reservation should be noticed at this stage. In Vermont, sorry to say, Mr Tuttle actually broke that campaign spending pledge. He revealed at a victory night party in Burlington that he had actually spent $200. Most of it, he added hastily, had paid for portable toilets at a fund-raiser last month on his farm.