- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2000

McCain widens lead

Arizona Sen. John McCain led Texas Gov. George W. Bush among likely Republican voters by 7 percentage points in New Hampshire, three weeks before the state stages its crucial presidential primary, according to a Reuters/ WHDH poll released yesterday.
The poll of 602 voters who intend to participate in the Republican primary Feb. 1 found Mr. McCain leading the field with 41 percent.
Mr. Bush followed with 34 percent; publisher Steve Forbes was a distant third with 11 percent; talk radio host Alan Keyes held 4 percent and conservative activist Gary Bauer and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah each had about 1 percent. Only around 8 percent remained undecided.
The poll, conducted over the weekend by Zogby International for Reuters and Boston television station WHDH, carried a statistical margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. That meant Mr. McCain’s lead over Mr. Bush technically remained within that margin.
More than 40 percent in the survey said they could still change their minds.
The result showed Mr. McCain gaining some strength since the last Reuters poll one month ago, when he led Mr. Bush by 35-32 percent. And it came despite a strong performance by Mr. Bush in a debate in New Hampshire Thursday that was seen or heard by 51 percent of poll respondents.

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Ashcroft to back Bush

Mr. Ashcroft, who dropped his own bid for the White House last January, will make his intentions known at a breakfast with Mr. Bush at his side, the Kansas City Star reported.

Mr. Ashcroft will be the 30th Republican U.S. senator to jump on the Bush bandwagon. The senator would not comment on the endorsement yesterday.

Asked about Mr. Ashcroft’s timing, spokesman Steve Hilton said he did not know when the senator made his decision.

“He has for quite some time had a very positive relationship with the Bush family, which has very significant family and friendship connections in the state of Missouri,” Mr. Hilton said.

Mr. Ashcroft traveled to South Carolina to make his announcement at the Bush campaign’s suggestion, the spokesman said.

Before dropping out of the 2000 race, Mr. Ashcroft had some early political success in South Carolina.

He won a poll of 788 delegates to the state’s Republican Convention with 32 percent support. Mr. Bush placed second with 15 percent.

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