- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2000

Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the early favorites, are likely to seal their parties' presidential nominations in today's national primary known as Super Tuesday.
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, hopes for unforeseen breakthroughs in California, New York and Ohio. Democrat Bill Bradley has more modest goals, hoping to win "a couple of states" in the Northeast.
Republicans go to the polls in 13 states with 613 delegates at stake 59 percent of the 1,034 delegates to secure the party's nomination.
The Democrats vie today for 1,315 delegates at stake in 15 states 63 percent of the 2,168 delegates to gain the party's nomination.
Mr. Bradley and Mr. McCain are running strongest in New England. But both trail in the key states New York, Ohio and California.
The latest independent polls indicate that Mr. Bush leads Mr. McCain by six points in New York, by 24 points in Ohio and by 28 points among California Republicans, whose votes will allot the state's 162 Republican delegates.
"There's no doubt of the absolute importance of California," Mr. McCain said yesterday. "To understate it is just not a recognition of reality."
In California, where the Texas governor and the Arizona senator campaigned, Mr. Bush, Mr. McCain and former ambassador Alan Keyes will compete for 16 percent of the delegates needed for the Republican nomination.
Mr. McCain is running neck and neck with Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore in California's bipartisan beauty contest. But Mr. Bush holds a commanding lead among California's Republicans.
"The independents and Republicans are going to nominate me," said Mr. Bush, who held a rally in Oakland before heading back to Texas to await the results.
Mr. McCain clung to hopes for an upset.
"There has not been a primary yet that's met expectations," Mr. McCain said. "It's just too volatile."
Mr. Gore holds poll leads over Mr. Bradley in all key Super Tuesday battlegrounds. He has stopped criticizing Mr. Bradley, hoping to unify the Democrats for the fall campaign.
Mr. Gore campaigned in New York yesterday, where he highlighted his health care proposal, which he says would give all children access to quality health care.
California, New York and Ohio will account for 756 Democratic delegates, more than half the necessary number to secure the nomination. The vice president hopes big victories in those states today will give him a boost heading into the general election.
Mr. Bradley will await the results in Manhattan, Mr. McCain in Los Angeles.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore hold commanding leads in Georgia, a likely southern battleground state in November. The Democrats have 77 delegates at stake in Georgia. The Republicans will fight over 54 delegates.
Mr. McCain is running ads in California, Ohio and New York, touting the Arizona senator as "a Republican like Ronald Reagan" who gives the party its best chance to win in November.
"I'm going to beat Al Gore like a drum," Mr. McCain says in the ads.
But Mr. Bush sounds increasingly confident. He has begun a daily countdown on his campaign World Wide Web site. Yesterday it said there are 319 days "until the end of the Clinton-Gore era."
Mr. Bradley, focusing on New York, says he will get out of the race if he does not win "a couple" of contests.
"Right now, the delegate count is only 42 to 27. So tomorrow is the big day," Mr. Bradley said yesterday in an interview with the "Early Show" on CBS.
"I don't think, in the end, people are going to listen to the pollsters or the pundits," Mr. Bradley said. "I think they're going to vote their heart and vote their convictions."
Mr. Bradley is running a television ad in New York that features black film director Spike Lee and former New York Mayor Ed Koch.
Mr. McCain faces a daunting task, even if he surprises Mr. Bush today and splits the Super Tuesday vote. Mr. Bush can look forward to a spate of favorable primaries Friday in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming and March 14 in southern states such as Texas and Florida.
Super Tuesday is the chief symbol of the front-loaded election calendar. The schedule became jumbled as Virginia, California and other states once deemed electoral afterthoughts leaped to the front, hoping to influence the outcome.
The truncated schedule seemed likely to boost Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore, their parties' front-runners.
Mr. Bush had name recognition and raised a record $70 million, which would allow for simultaneous ad campaigns in big states such as California, New York and Georgia.
Mr. Bradley raised money on a par with Mr. Gore. But the vice president enjoys great advantages in name recognition and in organization.
Both front-runners stumbled early and then regained their stride. Mr. Gore, hampered by "Clinton fatigue" and a top-heavy campaign staff, retooled and relocated his campaign to Nashville.
The vice president also shed his trademark blue suit for earth tones, began to attack Mr. Bradley's plan for universal health care and assumed a combative campaign style in promising to "fight" for voters.
Mr. Gore, buoyed by trade unions, beat Mr. Bradley soundly in the Iowa caucuses. The vice president then eked out a four-point victory over Mr. Bradley Feb. 1 in the New Hampshire primary.
Mr. Bradley never has recovered. He spent six days in Washington state, seeking a symbolic victory in that state's "beauty contest" before Super Tuesday, but Mr. Gore won by a 2-to-1 margin Feb. 29.
Mr. McCain, touting "straight talk," campaign finance reform and his record as a Vietnam prisoner of war stunned Mr. Bush by 19 points in New Hampshire, winning among Republicans, Democrats and independents.
Mr. Bush rebounded with a victory in the bruising South Carolina primary. Mr. McCain prevailed in Michigan and Arizona, but Mr. Bush won a trifecta Feb. 29, beating the Arizona senator in Virginia, North Dakota and Washington state.
Mr. McCain veered from his reform message Feb. 28, when he traveled to Virginia Beach and called the Revs. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell "agents of intolerance" on the eve of the Virginia primary. Since then, his campaign has flagged.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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