H. ROSS PEROT, a self-made Texas billionaire who criticizes government like a hard-scrabble populist, could be the next major candidate for president in 1992.
Mr. Perot vows to enter the race as an independent if volunteers get enough signatures to put him on the ballot in all 50 states.
Political pros say Perot, who may pour $100 million of his own money into the election, could win a sizable vote - and seriously damage President Bush's chances for reelection.
It would be "a really first-class campaign, not a low-budget campaign," Perot told viewers in a C-SPAN interview.
But if he runs, Perot says, he would invite "ordinary folks" to put $5 each into it, so they would have a stake.
Keith Frederick, a Democratic political consultant, scoffs at Perot's chances to be elected, but estimates he could get up to 20 percent of the vote.
Most of that "would come out of Bush's vote," Mr. Frederick says. "It kills George Bush."
Ed Rollins, a Republican political strategist, agrees that Perot poses more of a threat to Bush than to Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, especially if he drains conservative support in key electoral states such as Texas and California.
"I take his candidacy very seriously," Mr. Rollins said at a breakfast meeting with reporters. "He may be the ultimate protest candidate.... He could wreak havoc."
A Perot campaign would expose Americans to a blunt-talking candidate with a Texas twang and a penchant for action, not words.
Although he is wealthy, Perot has nothing but scorn for the get-rich mentality of the 1980s, which he says brought the United States to its knees financially.
In a series of speeches, Perot has laid out his case against Washington and against highly paid corporate officials.
He says: "We have government turned upside down, where the people running it act and live at your expense like royalty and many of you are working two jobs just to stay even."
Perot demands an end to government perks, like fancy gymnasiums for congressmen, free junkets for government officials, and even low-cost hair cuts.