AP - Bush Outpaces McCain in Primaries

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Bush Outpaces McCain in Primaries

By RON FOURNIER, AP Political Writer http://www.newsday.com/ap/topnews/ap173.htm

Cruising across the regions, George W. Bush won five Republican presidential primary victories Tuesday in an accelerating drive to vanquish John McCain's political insurgency. ''It's a huge step toward the nomination,'' the Texas governor said as McCain struggled to broaden his challenge beyond independent-minded New England.

Bush won in Ohio, Georgia, Missouri and Maryland -- and broke McCain's hold on the Northeast with a victory in Maine. McCain won in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont as voters in 13 states participated in the year's largest night of Republican presidential contests.

Bush said he did not consider himself the certain nominee. ''Tonight's going to be a good night,'' he said, ''but my frame of mind is to keep moving.''

Forging familiar coalitions, Bush relied on party faithful while McCain drew from independents and moderate Republicans. McCain's gamble of criticizing conservative Chrisitan leaders may have backfired in key states, while Bush's visit to a South Carolina university with a history of anti-Catholic views seemed to be a beneficial campaign issue for McCain in some states.

With Super Tuesday voting, the general election began to take shape: Vice President Al Gore was bidding to sweep 16 Democratic contests to push Sen. Bill Bradley to the brink of withdrawal. McCain's situation was not as dire, but his candidacy was flagging with a tough week of contests lying just ahead.

Several McCain advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Arizona senator would take stock of his campaign Wednesday when he travels to his retreat in Sedona. Some aides planned to recommend the senator depart the race but McCain was hinting no such thing as he embraced his victories in Massachusetts and Vermont and held out hope in New York and Connecticut.

''Clearly, we have done very well on the East Coast,'' McCain said in a statement.

Bush's spokeswoman, Karen Hughes, suggested gently that McCain might want to reassess his candidacy, ''It will be up to Senator McCain to decide how to proceed,'' he said.

Bush's victory in Ohio was sobering for McCain. He had won in Michigan and hoped to go next door to establish his strength in a coventional Republican setting. But it wasn't close.

Neither candidate could accumulate the magic number of 1,034 delegates Tuesday, but Bush hoped for a rout to drive McCain from the race, allowing him to turn his attention to Gore, who has gained against the GOP front-runner in head-to-head polls.

''The general election begins tonight,'' Charlie Black, an adviser to Bush, said as voters were still streaming to the polls across the country.

Bush and McCain looked ahead to three Western state primaries Saturday and six Southern state primaries next Tuesday, including his homestate of Texas.

Heading into the Super Tuesday contests, McCain advisers said he had to sweep the Northeast, win the majority of New York delegates and claim victories in Ohio and California to retain a reasonable shot at the nomination. With defeat in Ohio, his comeback scenarios were few. Voting next week is in Texas and Florida, as well as four other Bush-friendly southern states.

McCain won Massachusetts, where Gov. Paul Cellucci had promised to deliver his state to Bush. At stake Tuesday were 613 delegates, more than half the total needed for nomination, and bragging rights in the critical states of California, New York, Ohio and Missouri. The elections pitted Bush and his establishment allies against McCain's reform challenge. The races were projected based on exit interviews conducted by Voter News Service, a consortium of the AP and television networks.

From Maine to California, Super Tuesday voters brought to a climax six weeks of seesawing contests: McCain up in New Hampshire, down in South Carolina, up in Michigan and down again last week, when Bush swept Virginia, North Dakota and Washington state to solidify his claim as the GOP's front-runner. Bush, whose staff is already raising money and drawing up battle plans for November, said he was prepared for a tough campaign against Gore and his Clinton administration allies. California was Super Tuesday's super state, offering its 162 delegates to the winner. McCain had hoped to tap the state's independent-minded streak, but polls showed him trailing Bush among Republicans; only GOP votes count toward the delegate hunt.

Bush's victories earned him all 35 delegates from Missouri and 14 from Maine. He won at least 58 of the 154 delegates at stake in Georgia, Maryland and Ohio, with the remainder to be allocated based on the winner of each congressional district.

McCain won all 37 delegates from Massachusetts and the 12 at stake in Vermont, giving him an overall total of 154. Bush had accumulated 277 delegates to date.

Alan Keyes was still in the GOP race, but not a factor in any of Tuesday's states.

The exit surveys across the states showed women preferring Bush by a 2-to-1 margin over McCain. Among age groups, McCain carried only younger voters; those over 30 voted for Bush. Among Catholics, where Bush had stirred a tempest, the vote was split evenly between the two candidates. By a big margin, the voters said McCain was more likely than Bush to say what he believes.

In New York and Ohio, two key battlegrounds, Bush found strength among older voters and those with less education. He was favored by voters who said taxes and education were the most important issues, according to interviews conducted at polling places.

McCain did best with men, moderates, independents, people voting in their first Republican primary and those who decided to vote in the past week. Voters who ranked Social Security and Medicare as their top issues favored McCain, as did those looking for someone who would stand up for what they believe.

The biggest fight in the Northeast was over 101 delegates in New York, where Gov. George Pataki brought his political machine to bear for Bush.

McCain advisers were left hoping that he could win the nonbinding popular vote and claim a moral victory. It would be a tough sell: McCain himself has said for months that the winner of California's delegate chase would claim the nomination.

The weeklong Republican campaign in Super Tuesday states fueled a debate over religious tolerance and inflamed the personal feuding between the two candidates.

Bush said the fact that McCain's sister suffered from breast cancer was ''all the more reason'' to question the senator's record on the issue. Firing back, McCain said Bush might ''not be ready for prime time.''

They each accused the other of politicizing religion. link

-- (bigmouth@home.now), March 07, 2000


I think they should abolish primaries, it takes the fun out of voting.

-- 3 legs (odddog_3@hotmail.com), March 07, 2000.

You have to wonder about the guys running the Republican party. Every nationwide poll, study and group caucus has shown that McCain could beat Gore, but that Bush doesn't have a prayer, assuming Gore doesn't do something HORRIBLE between now and the election. And I don't like Al Gore, but he isn't that stupid.

So what do they do? They pour every cent and effort they can muster into backing the guy who is least likely to become president.

I guess they got McCain's message loud and clear. McCain didn't want to reform the election process nearly as much as he WANTED TO REFORM THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!

-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), March 07, 2000.


You be way off the mark, man. The Dems probably have been pumping money into McCain's campaign because he will be easy to beat in November. Heck, I don't recognize you posting in these parts very much, they are probably paying even you.

-- ,-, (comma@dash.comma), March 07, 2000.

You don't recognize the name of Paul Davis???

You apparently have not spent ANY time on Y2K.

-- Jim Cooke (JJCooke@yahoo.com), March 08, 2000.

Paul -

What pools are you citing on this? From what I saw about a week ago, McCain beat Gore by a good margin, while Bush vs. Gore was about even. Where did you see Gore beating Bush by any significant margin?

Frankly, polls fluctuate, sometimes massively, and I'd like to see some current readings. Bradley never was able to drill Gore on the "Clinton thing". In a general election, Bush will be able to bring up every last nauseating item that we've had inflicted on us over the past eight years of Clinton/Gore and ask, "Haven't we had enough of this?"

-- DeeEmBee (macbeth1@pacbell.net), March 08, 2000.

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