- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2000

Texas Gov. George W. Bush began a final two-day push in California yesterday by predicting he will win not only the state's 162 delegates, but also the popular vote tomorrow.
"I've got great confidence in the people of this state," Mr. Bush told several hundred supporters at a hotel in Oakland before departing for a swing through the state's Central Valley. "This state reminds me of campaigning in Texas. It's rich in its diversity, rich in its natural resources and rich in its value of American values."
A Zogby International tracking poll released yesterday showed Mr. Bush has widened his lead over Sen. John McCain of Arizona to 28 points among Republican voters, who will choose the delegates in California.
Meanwhile, Mr. McCain received a boost for the big New York primary yesterday, picking up endorsements from four New York City newspapers from across the ideological spectrum.
The New York Times, Post, Daily News, and Newsday all picked the Arizona senator over Mr. Bush. Mr. McCain is counting on a win in New York and nearby New England states on Tuesday to keep his insurgent campaign alive.
"We've started something very wonderful for America," an upbeat Mr. McCain told voters in Buffalo, N.Y., before flying to Ohio and California.
Mr. Bush responded: "John can have the newspaper endorsements in New York, and I'll take the vote."
The endorsements were a bit of surprise to the McCain campaign the four papers rarely agree on political endorsements and veteran political reporters say they cannot recall a time when all four endorsed the same candidate.
California, where polling shows Mr. Bush ahead, is the largest delegate prize on Super Tuesday, when 13 states hold Republican primaries or caucuses. Mr. Bush is also leading in New York in the latest Zogby poll, 44.6 percent to 38.6 percent. If Mr. Bush wins the six largest states where he now leads in polling, he will capture at least 452 delegates and effectively bury Mr. McCain's hopes of gaining the nomination.
Gerry Parsky, chairman of the Bush campaign in California, said the state will put an end to Mr. McCain's habit of claiming Republican delegates with support from Democrats and independents.
"To Senator McCain, please understand, Californians know double-talk when they hear it," Mr. Parsky said. "We in California are going to show the country what a Republican primary is all about."
Mr. McCain yesterday continued to appeal for votes from independents and Democrats, who were the backbone of his wins in New Hampshire and Michigan.
"That's what we used to call Reagan Democrats," he said. "Remember that? There are a lot of those up here in Buffalo."
Mr. McCain continued his attack on Mr. Bush, criticizing him for negative ads about Mr. McCain's environmental record. The campaign says they have traced the ads to associates of Mr. Bush in Texas.
"We've got 48 hours" until the vote, he said. "The message is, do not let the Bush campaign and their cronies hijack this election with their negative ads and $2.5 million of their dirty money."
He urged New Yorkers to "tell them maybe this is the kind of politics you practice in Texas, but it is not the kind of politics we accept in New York, Ohio and California."
Mr. Bush's Oakland rally was disrupted briefly when a dozen or so death-penalty opponents began chanting, "Stop the executions, moratorium now." Bush supporters booed the protesters, who were hustled out of the room by security personnel.
Kevin Neel, 35, of Oakland, a member of the national organization called the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, said his group wants all states to follow the lead of Illinois, whose governor recently halted executions after several cases in which condemned prisoners were freed with exculpatory evidence.
"This really has to be addressed as a national issue," Mr. Neel said. "[Mr. Bush] has executed more people in his state than any other governor since [the death penalty] was reinstated."
A total of 122 inmates have been put to death in Texas since Mr. Bush became governor in 1995.
Mr. Bush was drowned out by the protesters for a few moments, but later told reporters: "It didn't bother me in the least. I'm confident that every person put to death in Texas has been guilty as charged."
Protesting outside the event were about 15 women, who said Mr. Bush had politicized funding for breast-cancer research by attacking Mr. McCain's criticism of such funding for a New York hospital. "To politicize this for women is just preying on our fears," said Tomi Vande Brooke of Walnut Creek, Calif.
The hard feelings between the campaigns were evident yesterday.
Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes said the Texas governor backed out of an appearance last night on CBS' "60 Minutes" because the show added Mr. McCain to the program.
"They wanted to change the nature of the interview," Mrs. Hughes said. "It was not our goal to get publicity for Senator McCain."
McCain aides said CBS had approached them as early as Thursday of last week. They were openly annoyed that Mr. Bush had wrecked an opportunity for Mr. McCain to appear on TV before tomorrow's vote.
The incessant campaigning in New York also meant Republican and Democratic candidates occasionally crossed paths.
Mr. McCain's campaign, for example, ran into Bill Bradley at the Buffalo airport. The brief encounter caused an amusing moment of confusion as Mr. Bradley's luggage handlers attempted to load their baggage onto Mr. McCain's aircraft.


Dave Boyer reported from California. Sean Scully reported from New York.

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