- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2000

In Iowa, the front-runners for the presidential nominations of both parties did what they had to do Monday night. Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush each won decisive victories in the Iowa caucuses, where the first official votes were finally cast for the 2000 presidential campaign.
"Yeah, baby, yeah!" Karl Rove, the director of the Bush campaign exclaimed to reporters after learning the results. "Biggest percentage. Biggest margin. Biggest vote," Mr. Rove declared, referring to the 41 percent of the vote garnered by Mr. Bush, who achieved the three records compared to the votes received by previous winners of contested GOP Iowa caucuses. Publisher Steve Forbes, who received 30 percent of the vote, or three times the proportion he achieved four years ago, exceeded expectations, as did Alan Keyes, whose rhetorical performances in the debates helped him capture 14 percent of the vote. Social conservative Gary Bauer received 9 percent. However, after spending $31 million so far, including $25 million of his own money, Mr. Forbes saw the 10-point difference in August's straw poll between him and Mr. Bush actually increase by 1 percentage point in the caucuses.
According to entrance polls, Mr. Bush won pluralities across the board among Republican participants, from women, men, conservatives, moderates and liberals. He won pluralities among every age group, including older voters. And despite the relentless efforts of Messrs. Forbes, Keyes and Bauer to pound away at the front-runner for his perceived squishiness on abortion, the Texas governor also achieved a plurality among self-described religious conservatives. Asked which GOP candidate had the best chance to win in November, caucus voters were virtually unanimous in their selection of Mr. Bush.
Although former Sen. Bill Bradley spent 63 days campaigning in Iowa compared to Mr. Gore's 38 days and outspent the vice president on advertising, Mr. Gore pulverized Mr. Bradley by a 63-to-35 margin in the Democratic caucuses, winning every demographic group except those earning more than $75,000 a year.
As recently as a couple months ago, when Mr. Bradley, riding a wave of media adulation, was surging, he believed he could defeat Mr. Gore in Iowa. In the end, the party establishment, which backed Mr. Gore, and the unions, which delivered their members' votes for the vice president, proved to be too much for Mr. Bradley to overcome. Now Mr. Bradley, who has seen his lead in New Hampshire disappear, must quickly regroup for that state's primary next Tuesday. According to the latest CNN-Gallup-USA Today poll, Mr. Gore now leads Mr. Bradley in New Hampshire by 5 percentage points, prompting reporters, sensing a potentially mortal wound, to ask the once-surging Mr. Bradley if he will drop out altogether if Mr. Gore defeats him next week. Tonight's Democratic debate will be crucial for Mr. Bradley.
As Republicans move on to New Hampshire, Mr. Bush will find himself attacked on his left flank by moderate challenger John McCain, the Arizona senator who ignored Iowa, and on his right flank by Messrs. Keyes, Bauer and Forbes, the latter having won the endorsement of the Manchester Union Leader, the state's largest newspaper. Tonight's GOP debate will surely feature the equivalent of a gang assault upon Mr. Bush, who, if he ultimately wins the GOP nomination, should be grateful for the experience. It will at least somewhat prepare him for the all-out assault he can expect from Mr. Gore, the likely Democratic nominee, and the hatchet-wielding men and women his campaign has assembled.

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