"Clinton's line got a lot of applause," says TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan, "but I bet there were plenty of guffaws too." In terms of party lines, the census issue is simple: The bulk of those who go uncounted under the current system are blacks, Hispanics and the poor -- largely Democratic voters. If the census were adjusted to count more of them, those minorities would get more congressmen, more federal funding and more political attention. And President Clinton wants to be the one to give it to them.
And Houston is just the town to do it in. "Texas is the perfect place for a push like this. Hispanics have become a formidable voting bloc," says Branegan. Plus -- and of course this will sound cynical -- Houston is the hometown of one Governor George W. Bush, the front-runner to take on Al Gore in 2000.