Wichita U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt said he's "very concerned" about how Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush will fare when he squares off in debates against Democratic opponent Al Gore.
"I think the debates will be very critical to the Bush campaign, because we know how good Gore is as a debater," Tiahrt, R-Kan., said Tuesday during a forum sponsored by Wichita State University's Center for Economic Development and Business Research.
Democratic challenger Carlos Nolla did not show up at the forum because of an unspecified personal emergency, Tiahrt said.
Tiahrt said Republicans expect to pick up six seats in Congress and win the presidency, though that race would be close.
"Americans want a change in the White House, and George W. Bush will win," he told the group.
Tiahrt told the group of business leaders that Nolla, an attorney, was furthering the democratic process by taking time out from his law practice to run against him.
"I want to compliment him," Tiahrt said. "He has run his campaign based on issues. It hasn't gotten ugly."
He also said he understood how Nolla's family emergency might take precedence over the forum.
But Tiahrt used the opportunity to take at least some credit for everything from the budget surplus to financing flood control measures. He said he is leaning toward a flat national sales tax. He has opposed it in the past. He said recent debate has made him reconsider that position.
He likened himself and the federal budget surplus to the "Little Red Hen."
In that children's book, the hen did all the work, only to have the rest of the barnyard try to eat the loaf.
"Now we have a surplus and I feel like the Little Red Hen," he said.