- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2000

Texas Gov. George W. Bush said yesterday he learned important lessons from his father's defeat in 1992 and doesn't intend to repeat the mistake.
"I learned incumbency is hard to defend if you don't look forward," Mr. Bush told Fox News, saying his father "had an enormous record" as president, "a great accomplishment when it comes to Desert Storm.
"But the American people are always asking 'what's next?' " he said. "That's why you hear me talking about the 21st century."
The elder Mr. Bush won his first presidential election handily in 1988, but had to fend off an aggressive primary challenge from Pat Buchanan in 1992 and a third-party challenge from Texas businessman Ross Perot in the general election. Democratic nominee Bill Clinton managed to turn public anxiety over the economy against Mr. Bush in November 1992 and managed to beat the incumbent.
The younger Mr. Bush and his four Republican primary opponents continued to campaign in New Hampshire yesterday, only two days before the critical first-in-the-nation primary. They had relatively light schedules, however, realizing that the Super Bowl was likely to draw most of the public attention.
Arizona Sen. John McCain sharpened his distinctions with Mr. Bush yesterday as he presided over his 114th New Hampshire town meeting in Peterborough.
"I am fully prepared to lead. I am fully prepared to assume the responsibilities of commander in chief," Mr. McCain told the Peterborough crowd.
Mr. McCain said his five-year $240 billion tax cut is more conservative than Mr. Bush's $483 billion five-year tax cut.
"This is one of the defining aspects of this campaign between me and Governor Bush," Mr. McCain said of his Republican rival. Though Mr. Bush leads by a wide margin in nationwide polls, Mr. McCain is fighting to hang on to his narrow edge among New Hampshire voters.
Yesterday, Mr. McCain said the Bush tax plan "does not have one penny for Social Security outside of the $2 trillion that is already in the fund. He has no money for Medicare and he has not one penny to pay down the national debt.
"There is our difference," Mr. McCain said. "I think it's conservative to take care of our obligations when we are able to."
Mr. Bush dismissed Mr. McCain's criticism.
"That's political talk, talk that justifies leaving money in Washington," Mr. Bush said at Alvine High School in Hudson. "But we're running a surplus in America, we're running a surplus because of American ingenuity."
He promised to save half of a projected $4 trillion surplus over the next 10 years to shore up Social Security and Medicaid for the time when baby boomers retire and to put aside another trillion to pay down the national debt and provide for emergencies. The remaining trillion, he said, will pay for his tax-cut plans.
He told voters he is not worried about the surpluses being dramatically smaller than expected because his tax-cut plan will maintain growth and prosperity.
Mr. Bush's remarks yesterday about the 1992 election marked one of the few times he has commented on his father's presidency. He has generally refused to answer questions about his father. President Bush and his wife, Barbara, made a rare campaign appearance for their son Saturday in Milford.
In an interview with CBS yesterday, Mr. Bush refused to criticize his father's nomination of Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter, who has come under fire from conservatives for his stands on key issues.
"I'm not going to get in a debate with my father, or voices that would speak for my father," he said.
Mr. McCain appeared upbeat yesterday as he took the stage in Peterborough to the strains of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," played by a local rock band. He told 300 supporters that only 40 people showed up for a town-hall meeting he had at the same site in July.
"We were at 3 percent in the polls, and that poll had a 5 percent margin of error," Mr. McCain said. "We could have been at minus-2."
The latest polls show how far the McCain campaign has come in six months. Mr. McCain led Mr. Bush 39 percent to 35 percent, followed by magazine publisher Steve Forbes with 15 percent, in a CNN/ USA Today/Gallup tracking poll released yesterday. A Reuters news agency tracking poll, released yesterday, had the race a statistical dead heat, with Mr. McCain leading Mr. Bush 38 percent to 36 percent, followed by Mr. Forbes with 13 percent.

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