- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 3, 2000

GREENVILLE, S.C. George W. Bush hit the ground running yesterday as he moved to position himself as the one true conservative candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.
To make his point clear, Mr. Bush opened his first rally by using the word "conservative" six times in a minute.
Throughout the day, the Texas governor repeatedly cast upstart Sen. John McCain of Arizona as a Democratic-leaning candidate beholden to liberal independents, the primary catalyst for his New Hampshire victory.
"It's a different world down here," Mr. Bush said in South Carolina, site of the next big showdown between Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain. "This is a state that embraces conservative values. I'm the conservative candidate."
Mr. Bush said that, of all the contenders in the GOP, he alone embodies the Republican ideal of taking surplus funds out of the hands of legislators and returning it to taxpayers.
"My friend John McCain says my tax-cut plan is too risky. What's risky is leaving the money in Washington, D.C. He sounded like [Vice President] Al Gore on taxes in New Hampshire. He's taken the Democratic position on tax cuts," he said.
"He came at me from the left on the education plan, and he came at me on the left on the tax plan and it worked," he told reporters.
Mr. Bush also criticized Mr. McCain for working with Mr. Gore on campaign finance, saying, "Mr. McCain promotes campaign-funding regulations that only Democrats favor."
Asked if he thought Mr. McCain is a liberal in conservative's clothing, Mr. Bush said: "I wouldn't call John a liberal, but on key points, he has taken the Democratic position."
For his part, Mr. McCain insisted that, despite his tax and campaign-reform positions, he is nonetheless a conservative.
Still, he said, "Electability is all about getting the support of the political center," an admission that his strategy in the nomination contest will not focus on the party's most conservative voters.
Mr. McCain's campaign yesterday began reaping the benefits of the New Hampshire win: His Web site took in almost $500,000 in contributions within hours of the victory. But he still faces a fund-raising juggernaut in Mr. Bush, who has collected about $68.7 million so far.
And Mr. Bush's move to solidify support from conservatives the power base of the party is just beginning.
Yesterday, he picked up the endorsement of former Vice President Dan Quayle, who served under his father, as well as several social conservatives who switched their support from pro-life activist Gary Bauer.
"I know what it takes to be president," Mr. Quayle said. "Governor Bush is the most prepared. He will be a strong world leader."
Mr. Bush also plans to counter more aggressively charges from his chief foe, a mistake his top campaign officials acknowledged he made in New Hampshire.
"I didn't do a very good job of defending myself in New Hampshire, and it's nobody's fault but my own," Mr. Bush said. "There's more than one of us who's qualified to be president."
Bush campaign officials said Mr. McCain hurt Mr. Bush with the claim that Mr. Bush's $483 billion tax-cut plan would leave nothing to shore up the Social Security system.
"What we do intend to alter is the governor making sure he adequately defends mischaracterizations of his plan," said campaign spokeswoman Mindy Tucker. "The facts just weren't out there."
On that theme, Mr. Bush was more critical yesterday of Mr. McCain's proposed $237 billion tax cut over five years, which the senator has said President Clinton might favor.
"Some say a tax cut might risk our prosperity," Mr. Bush told an audience of about 6,000 at Bob Jones University in Greenville. "Why is it risky to let you keep your own money? It's bad enough when Democrats make these arguments. It's worse when Republicans like my chief rival in this state use them."
South Carolina, which holds the South's first primary on Feb. 19, promises just what Mr. Bush needs after his loss in New Hampshire. While the New England state has a history of endorsing underdogs, South Carolina has a tendency to validate front-runners, as when Bob Dole handily defeated upstart Pat Buchanan in 1996 and George Bush beat Mr. Dole in 1988 on his way to the presidency.
Mr. Bush leads Mr. McCain here by 18 points, according to the most recent poll, although he led Mr. McCain by 47 points in November. Mr. McCain has said he "must win" South Carolina to stay in the race, although yesterday he said he need only "do well."
Asked how the Bush campaign plans to avoid a repeat of New Hampshire, national campaign director Karl Rove told The Washington Times: "We're going to have South Carolinians vote. [New Hampshire] is a quirky state that likes to give front-runners a comeuppance."
Voters here said yesterday they would not be influenced by the size of Mr. McCain's victory in New Hampshire.
"I don't think the South has ever done what other states have done," said Deborah Kline, a student at Bob Jones. Asked if she thought Mr. McCain would get a boost from his win in the first primary, Miss Kline said, "Maybe for him personally, but not as far as South Carolina is concerned."
Harry Innerst of Greenville, who works at a printing company, agreed that the New Hampshire results won't influence voters in the state.
"South Carolina is kind of marching to its own theme," said Mr. Innerst, who is leaning toward Mr. Bush. "I like what he says about family values and restoring honor to the presidency. That's important."
Said J. Sam Daniels, executive director of the state's Republican Party: "They do what they feel is the right thing to do. Never in past primaries has [New Hampshire's results] had an impact."
Bush supporters Carl and Linda Abrams, both professors at the university, said they were glad to hear Mr. Bush hammering home his message of family values and opposition to abortion.
"We've been kind of waiting for him to hit those conservative issues," Mrs. Abrams said. "To rally South Carolina voters, you really have to do that."

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