- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2000

State campaign chairmen for George W. Bush and John McCain already are making plans to heal the wounds of one of the most rancorous and bitterly contested nomination contests in recent history.
In some cases, the candidates' state campaign leaders are heeding the calls of state Republican Party chairmen to make peace as quickly as possible so as to unite against Vice President Al Gore, the presumed Democratic nominee.
"It got very contentious between McCain and Bush in our state, but we cannot afford to lose to Al Gore," Washington state Republican Party Chairman Dale Foreman told The Washington Times yesterday.
State leaders also said their aim is to keep within the Republican Party as many of the new voters as possible who were attracted by Mr. McCain and Mr. Bush. In addition, they want to unite so as not to give Democrats ammunition to use against Mr. Bush, the likely Republican nominee.
Secretary of State Ralph Munro, the McCain chairman, met Thursday with Bush campaign co-chairmen Rep. Jennifer Dunn, Washington Republican, and Mike McKay, a Seattle lawyer.
The meeting took place in Mr. Foreman's office at the suggestion of Mr. Munro.
"We sent e-mails and telephoned our 39 county chairmen and told them to run friendly, positive caucus meetings tomorrow rather [than] nasty, contentious meetings," Mr. Foreman said.
The Washington state Republican nomination caucuses today will select 25 delegates at 1,000 locations to the Republican national presidential nominating convention in Philadelphia this summer.
"We have sent word to our Bush folks to make sure that in electing Bush delegates to be courteous and welcoming to all people who are participating, including the McCain people," Mr. McKay told The Washington Times.
Mr. Munro said that the "vast majority of McCain supporters are brand new to the Republican Party, and I don't want to turn them off. So we are urging our side and the Bush side to take a step back and not come into tomorrow's causes with animosity," Mr. Munro said.
Even Mr. Bush is looking to smooth party relations.
"I don't think the fracture is much of a fracture. I really don't," Mr. Bush said in California, where polls show he holds at least a 20-point lead. Our party is enthused and excited."
And the Texas governor reached out to independents and Democrats who supported Mr. McCain in early primaries while giving himself a pat on the back as well.
"Our party is enthused and excited. John deserves credit for bringing people into the party, and I deserve a lot of credit for exciting the party," Mr. Bush said.
Relations turned sour after South Carolina, where Mr. McCain suffered his first major defeat after winning the New Hampshire primary. The two candidates traded charges daily as each criticized the other's campaign style.
But recently Rep. Lindsay Graham, a McCain supporter, and former Gov. Carroll Campbell, a Bush champion, "have exchanged 'love letters' that expressed a desire to work together," according to South Carolina Republican campaign consultant Richard Quinn, himself a McCain supporter.
"I saw them hug each other and sit together at fund-raiser in Myrtle Beach after the primary," Mr. Quinn said. "They talked about the need to work together for November."
"So I don't see any lingering bitterness or feuds at the leadership level between the campaigns," Mr. Quinn said.
South Carolina Republican Chairman Henry McMaster said he, too, has begun talking with both sides.
"We always [have] some wrinkles that need to be smoothed out," Mr. McMaster said. "People in this state were deadly serious about their candidate."
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett said, "I've already had one meeting with our statewide elected officials last week to talk about bringing everyone together to focus on November."
Unlike Michigan, where Mr. McCain won the Republican primary with the help of Democrats and independents amid intense acrimony between the Bush and McCain organizations, the Ohio Republican nomination contest has been relatively civilized.
"There is not a lot bitterness, certainly not at [the] top of ticket," Mr. Bennett said.
In Michigan, where some Republicans say healing is desperately needed, party reunification is on hold. There has been no state party chairman since Elizabeth "Betsy" DeVos resigned earlier this year. Rusty Hills, Gov. John Engler's public affairs director, is expected to be elected as the new chairman on March 11.
Michigan Republican National Committee member Sharon A. Wise sees "no coming together" of the people who helped Mr. McCain score his comeback there after the Arizona senator's South Carolina defeat.
"The Democrats are the ones that gave him the election," Mrs. Wise said. "But within the Republican Party, there are no hard feelings, no 'them against us' attitude between the Bush and McCain supporters, as far as I can detect."[

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