- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 17, 2000

Texas Gov. George W. Bush has increased his lead among Republicans while John McCain has boosted his advantage among Democrats and independents as they head into Saturday's open-to-all-voters primary in South Carolina.
"Bush has done precisely what he needed to do to secure the Republican vote," independent pollster John Zogby says. "But McCain has widened his lead among independents and moderate voters, and has also increased the potential turnout of independents and Democrats."
Mr. Bush's television and newspaper ads painting Mr. McCain as liberal and an ersatz reformer who depends on Democrats and independents for support are working for him among Republicans.
Mr. McCain's decision last week to pull his negative ads has reinforced his "straight talk" image among independents, his strongest constituency.
Mr. Zogby, however, says his new poll, released yesterday, shows Mr. Bush leading among both younger voters one of the groups targeted by the McCain reform image and higher-income voters.
The poll also shows that a clear majority, 54 percent to 37 percent, of likely primary voters in the state believe Mr. Bush stands the best chance of defeating the Democratic nominee in the fall.
Other new polls came to the same conclusion. A CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll taken Feb. 11 to 13 shows Mr. Bush leading Mr. McCain 49 percent to 42 percent. The sample of 552 likely voters included about 40 percent non-Republicans.
A Los Angeles Times poll taken over the same period with 45 percent non-Republicans among those surveyed shows Mr. Bush leading 42 percent to 40 percent. And an American Research Group survey taken Feb. 13 to 15 with 40 percent non-Republicans among those polled has Mr. Bush leading 47 percent to 41 percent.
But Mr. Zogby says a big turnout would mean "more Democrats and independents and that helps McCain."
McCain spokesman Howard Opinsky says the senator's campaign is confident that a second McCain win, as a follow-up to his Feb. 1 New Hampshire victory, would give him the momentum to take Michigan's Feb. 22 open-to-all primary and then charge on to victory in the biggest open-to-all primary in California on March 7.
In South Carolina, meanwhile, a record 1.1 million ballots have been printed for the Republican primary four times the number of persons who voted in the state's 1996 nomination contest, says state Republican Party Chairman Henry McMaster.
"We don't expect that many," says Mr. McMaster. "We had 276,000 turn out in 1996 a record. Some campaign consultants here are predicting 350,000 this time. I think it will be more. We want to be prepared."
Mr. Zogby's poll, taken Monday and Tuesday, shows that Mr. Bush now leads Mr. McCain by 59 percent to 29 percent among Republican voters. As evidence of the success of the Bush strategy, a Zogby poll on Feb. 2 had him leading Mr. McCain by only 43 percent to 37 percent among Republicans.
Among likely Republican, Democrat and independent voters combined, Mr. Bush leads McCain by 43 percent to 40 percent, a statistically insignificant difference in the Zogby survey of 607 likely voters.
Mr. McCain now leads among independents 62 percent to 23 percent and among Democrats by 51 percent to 13 percent.
Some Republicans, who told Zogby telephone pollsters on Feb. 2 they would vote for Mr. McCain, were polled by reporters for The Washington Times after the Tuesday night debate in South Carolina. They said they had switched to Mr. Bush or were moving to him. A few said they were moving to Alan Keyes.
But Democrats for Mr. McCain seemed to be holding firm.
Democrat Kathy Moody, 47, a member of the International Union of Electrical Workers at a battery factory in Sumter, S.C., says she plans to vote for Mr. McCain in the Republican primary.
"The union has said it hopes McCain gets the nomination over Bush," she says.
She was told the union would look into Mr. McCain's voting record on labor issues and recommend later whether the Democratic nominee would be preferable in the general election.
David Southern, 41, of Charleston, a Republican who is an account executive with a mortgage company, was for Mr. McCain on Feb. 2, but began moving toward Mr. Bush last week. Reached after the Tuesday night debate, he said, "I am going to vote for Bush. I liked the way he showed more passion and started throwing punches in the debate."
Mr. Southern, who describes himself as a conservative, says, "I am a bit uncomfortable with independents sneaking in to kind of override our primary."
Jeff Hayes, 42, of Spartanburg, S.C., an independent voter, was for Mr. McCain on Feb. 2. After the Tuesday debate, he said, "I am even more for McCain. Bush did better than in the past. Keyes was impressive, but he is too far to the right. We need someone closer to the center and McCain is that person."
Tom Herron, a McCain campaign precinct chairman in Horry County, says Mr. Bush's tactic of continuing his "negative ad campaign" against Mr. McCain and Mr. McCain's decision to pull down his negative ads has "succeeded in boxing in" the Arizona senator. If Mr. McCain returns to negative advertising, he risks alienating his independent support and if he doesn't, he will allow Mr. Bush to continue to paint him as liberal.
In the new Zogby poll, Mr. Bush leads among conservatives, 51 percent to 32 percent, and very conservative voters, 62 percent to 19 percent.
Mr. McCain leads among voters who say this would be the first Republican primary in which they voted 49 percent to 32 percent and among those who say they have voted in past Democratic primaries, 49 percent to 28 percent.
Mr. McCain also leads Mr. Bush among voters who describe themselves as "moderates" by 56 percent to 31 percent.
Mr. Herron sees no decrease in enthusiasm among McCain independents and Democrats. But like other McCain backers, he complains that Mr. Bush's campaign and allied groups such as the National Smokers Alliance and the National Right to Life Committee "are spending millions of dollars" in ads attacking Mr. McCain.

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