- The Washington Times - Monday, February 14, 2000

Texas Gov. George W. Bush says he expects to win the Republican primary in South Carolina Saturday, but worries that "crossover" Democrats could choose the GOP's presidential nominee.
"The only thing I'm concerned about is … Democrats flocking to the Republican primary to decide who the Republican nominee is and then heading back to the Democrats in the general election," Mr. Bush said yesterday during a lengthy interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."
He said "what bothers me is that Democrats come in and nominate the easier candidate to beat in the fall."
Democrats and independents will be able to vote in three of the next four Republican primaries in South Carolina, Michigan, and California. Bush supporters worry that setup could benefit their candidate's rival, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who scored a victory over Mr. Bush in the New Hampshire primary two weeks ago as a result of strong support from independents.
"What I'm worried about is Democrats coming in and deciding who the Republican nominee is going to be," Mr. Bush said on NBC.
For those skeptical that could happen, the governor said the husband of a top campaign leader for Vice President Al Gore in South Carolina is supporting Mr. McCain.
"He is supporting John [in the primary], which is fine, except he's made it pretty well known he's going to be for Al Gore in the general election," said Mr. Bush.
Mr. McCain was asked on CBS' "Face the Nation" about Mr. Bush's concerns that Democrats are using crossover voting in a bid to ensure that the weakest Republican gets the presidential nomination.
"I appreciate his opinion, but that flies in the face of the facts. And the facts are that independents are also flocking in large numbers to my candidacy, as well as Republicans. We have carried the majority of Republicans in New Hampshire, and an overwhelming majority of independents. Everybody knows that if you are going to win a general election, you have to have those independents and some Democrats," he said.
However, Bush campaign strategist Ralph Reed, interviewed on ABC's "This Week," says he believes crossover voting poses a "serious problem."
He urged Republicans in South Carolina to go to the polls in record numbers Saturday to prevent Democrats "from taking control of their party."
Bush supporter Pat Robertson, interviewed on two talk shows yesterday, said on CBS he sees evidence of the kind of political conspiracy and intrigue that worry Mr. Bush.
"I think there is evidence of the fact that people who are allied with Al Gore are, indeed, making telephone calls to encourage Democrats to go vote in the Republican primary there's no question about it," Mr. Robertson, president of the Christian Coalition, said on "Face the Nation."
He added: "That, of course, would send confusion into the Republican Party. And I do think they [Gore allies] are looking forward with some relish to the Keating Five scandal and some of those other things that are in Senator McCain's background. So I think that they consider him a weaker candidate than Governor Bush."
On CNN's "Late Edition," Mr. Robertson predicted many conservative Christians will stay away from the November general election if Mr. McCain emerges as the Republican presidential nominee. He said he also does not believe the Christian Coalition would put out its usual 75 million voter guides or that it would be urging anyone to vote.
"I think there will be a defection of the Christian conservatives in major waves. I'm talking about a large portion of the Republican base would walk away," said the religious broadcaster, who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1988.
Mr. Robertson questioned how Mr. McCain can be the "knight in shining armor" he has portrayed to be when he "took $110,000 from the infamous saving and loan swindler, Charles Keating."
He said he believes "this insurgency campaign" is "fraudulent" and that it will be over Saturday night when the votes are counted in South Carolina.
Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican and national co-chairman of the McCain campaign, took a swipe at the Christian Coalition's political activism. "To me, Christianity has to do with saving souls … not raising soft money," he said on "Late Edition."
Last summer, the Christian Coalition created a separate political action committee so it could keep its tax-exempt status. "The organization … has not raised a lot of PAC money," Mr. Robertson said. "We deal with $10 and $15 contributions."

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