- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 10, 2000

Texas Gov. George W. Bush is beginning to campaign harder, longer and with a style that is now more like Republican presidential rival John McCain's.

Even the Bush message is beginning to sound a bit like the Arizona senator who has made campaign finance reform a key issue.

Mr. Bush is now using the word "reform" in speeches. Over his head at campaign events in Delaware before Tuesday's primary vote there, a large banner proclaimed that the Texas governor is "A Reformer with Results."

He repeated that line in speeches and used the word "reform" 11 times in a single speech.

In South Carolina, Republican National Committee member Buddy Witherspoon said, "Now it looks like Governor Bush is working harder here, looking to grass-roots Republicans and conservatives. I hear phone calls are being made to get conservatives out for Bush."

Mr. McCain's early strategy paid off with an upset victory in New Hampshire, giving him enough momentum going into South Carolina's Feb. 19 primary that polls show he has narrowed or even closed the huge lead Mr. Bush once had held in the state.

New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Steve Duprey said Mr. McCain's time spent in that state while Mr. Bush divided his days between Iowa, New Hampshire and his Texas home in January helped Mr. McCain solidify his image as a serious candidate hungry for the support of voters.

Mr. McCain also scored points with his virtually endless series of town hall sessions with voters in town after town, where in each case he would allow extensive questioning by citizens who had come out often in the dark of bitter cold nights while Mr. Bush gave scripted campaign speeches at his events.

In South Carolina, Mr. Bush is now adopting the question-and-answer format.

"Yes, he has shortened his speeches and is spending more time on questions and answers," said Bush campaign spokesman Ari Fleischer, but not because Mr. McCain has used the technique so successfully. "The governor has a great desire is to spend less time on the formalities of speeches and more time interacting with voters he likes the one on one and he's good at it."

Both men left New Hampshire after votes were counted on the night of Feb. 1 and flew straight to South Carolina. But Mr. McCain hit the ground in that state harder and earlier.

Two days after the New Hampshire primary, Mr. Bush appeared at a morning event in South Carolina then went off to campaign in Delaware, leaving Mr. McCain the field in South Carolina, where he continued to campaign at a series of stops into the evening and did the same thing the next day before flying to California to address that state's Republican party convention. Mr. Bush skipped California altogether.

Mr. McCain went straight from his airplane to a 3 a.m. rally of hundreds of college volunteers all of voting age and all from South Carolina in an airplane hangar.

Mr. McCain, his team and the press traveling with him then got three hours of sleep before making the first early-morning campaign stop. They kept going till nightfall. In New Hampshire as in South Carolina, Mr. McCain did only campaign events where likely voters were likely to amass.

By contrast, Mr. Bush started his day in South Carolina later than Mr. McCain, speaking to 7,000 people not all voters and many from out of state in the cathedral-like amphitheater of Bob Jones University.

And when Mr. Bush took time from South Carolina campaigning to be in Delaware for that state's primary which yields few delegates and little "bounce" from a victory some South Carolina Republicans shook their heads, wondering at the rationale behind the Bush campaign's strategy.

As with Iowa, Mr. McCain did not spend any time in Delaware and instead continued to focus on being where the votes are for him.

"The amount of time [Mr. Bush] spent in South Carolina was less because he did have to go campaign in Delaware," Mr. Fleischer said. "But the time [Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain] will spend in South Carolina by the time this is over will be roughly equal."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide