- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 8, 2000

Texas Gov. George W. Bush trounced Sen. John McCain in the key primary states of California, New York and Ohio yesterday and took a giant step toward the Republican presidential nomination.
"We have a national victory," Mr. Bush said in a speech in Austin, Texas. "Republicans and conservatives across America have said they want me to lead the Republican Party to victory come November, and I am ready and eager to do so."
Vice President Al Gore all but secured the Democratic Party's nomination. He swept Bill Bradley, a former New Jersey senator, in contests from coast to coast, including California, New York and Ohio.
Mr. McCain and Mr. Bradley both said last night they plan to gather with advisers today to weigh whether to continue their quests.
Mr. Bush, who also won primaries in Georgia, Missouri, Maryland and Maine and captured Republican caucuses in Minnesota, picked up at least 347 delegates, according to partial returns. That pushes his total to 525 of 1,034 needed to win nomination.
Mr. McCain, who won in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Vermont which combined carry fewer delegates than New York alone won 117 delegates for a total of 222.
In his victory speech, Mr. Bush lauded Mr. McCain and his other Republican rival, former ambassador Alan Keyes.
"I commend two good men and tough competitors: Alan Keyes and Senator John McCain. This has been a spirited contest. I congratulate John. We have our disagreements, but I respect him and his commitment to reform. I congratulate Alan for his campaign of conviction," he said.
He then turned his sights on Mr. Gore.
"I will repair the broken bonds of trust between Americans and their government. We need to put behind us eight years of nightly polls and daily attacks, eight years of partisanship and gridlock and division.
"Eight years is a long time and eight years is enough. We are ready and I believe our country is ready to return exiled honor to the White House."
In the Democratic contest, Mr. Gore was buoyed by his strong showing.
"They don't call it Super Tuesday for nothing," Mr. Gore said, after he took the stage at his Nashville, Tenn., headquarters to singer Tina Turner's "Simply the Best."
"While we are here tonight to celebrate great victories," Mr. gore said, "I tell you, and hear me well: You ain't seen nothing yet."
The vice president, using the refrains "join us now," and "our campaign is your cause," reached out to independents who support abortion rights and free trade and want to protect Social Security and Medicare.
Mr. Gore also made a direct appeal to McCain supporters.
"To those Republicans and independents out there whose heroes are Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, to all of you I say as well, join with us. Our campaign is now your cause," Mr. Gore said.
"We won a few and lost a few today," the Arizona senator told supporters in Los Angeles. "Over the next few days, we will take some time to enjoy our victories and take stock of our losses."
Mr. McCain struck a tentative note, saying he and Mr. Bush "may meet again in primaries a few days from now."
He added that his crusade for political reform will continue "as long as it takes to restore America's confidence and pride in the practice and institutions of our great democracy."
Mr. Bradley delivered his concession speech in Manhattan, and sounded as though he will leave the race to Mr. Gore.
"He won. I lost. And on one level, I agree with Vince Lombardi when he said, 'Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing.'
"Tomorrow, I'll consult with supporters around the country to get their thoughts and advice, and I'll make my plans known shortly."
He said his campaign "shaped the national debate," by highlighting issues such as gun violence, racial unity and the 44 million Americans without health insurance.
In California, Mr. Bush led among Republicans 30 percent to 27 percent with 4 percent of precincts reporting. In Ohio, Mr. Bush led Mr. McCain 58 percent to 37 percent with 87 percent of the votes tallied.
In New York, 93 delegates were at stake. As of midnight, Mr. Bush had won 65 to 23 for Mr. McCain.
Mr. Bush, eyeing the general election, already is seeking to unify the Republican Party following a fractious primary campaign.
The Republicans' chief goal is "to regain the White House," Mr. Bush said earlier yesterday in Austin, Texas, where he awaited the results at the governor's mansion.
"Obviously, if there are any personal issues between my opponents and me that require people to sit down and talk, I'd be happy to do so," Mr. Bush said. "But let's see what happens tonight first."
A touch of bitterness remained last night. Mr. Bush told the Fox News Channel that he did not appreciate Mr. McCain's "Catholic voter alert" calls in Michigan, which implied Mr. Bush harbors an anti-Catholic bias.
"I didn't particularly care for it but I know where my heart is," he said. "Catholics all across the country have risen to my defense."
Mr. McCain had hoped to sweep the New England contests and to prevail in New York, which apportioned its delegates through mini-elections in the state's 31 congressional districts.
The Arizonan, who began as the candidate of campaign-finance reform, never recovered following his Feb. 28 attack on the Revs. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.
The Arizona senator hoped to attract independents and Democrats by branding the ministers "agents of intolerance" on the eve of Virginia's Republican primary.
The move appeared to backfire yesterday. Exit polls showed self-described evangelical Christians voted for Mr. Bush overwhelmingly.
"I think [Mr. McCain] energized the religious base in a way that George Bush couldn't possibly have done," Mr. Robertson said last night in an interview with CNN.
"McCain has handed George Bush a very nice gift."
Mr. Robertson added in a Fox television interview: "I've never seen anything quite so foolish in my life."
The breadth of the Bush and Gore victories could set the stage for a competitive fall campaign. The vice president and the Texas governor both ran well in battleground states such as Ohio, Missouri and Georgia.
The challengers will take today off to consider unattractive options. Bradley aides already are considering a graceful exit.
The Arizona senator, who failed to sweep the seemingly friendly New England states, now faces a more daunting challenge.
The next Republican contests Friday in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming and a host of southern primaries Tuesday seem tailored for Mr. Bush.
"I'm physically ready to keep going," an upbeat Mr. Bush said in Austin.
"There will be three western states that vote this week and a week from today Texas and Florida and three or four other states will be voting as well. I'm ready to go."
Republicans vied in 13 states for 613 delegates 59 percent of the 1,034 delegates needed to capture the party's presidential nomination.
The Democrats voted in 15 states. Mr. Gore and Mr. Bradley competed for 1,315 delegates 63 percent of the 2,168 delegates needed for the Democratic nomination.
Earlier yesterday, Mr. Bradley tried to put up a brave face as he shook commuters' hands early yesterday.
"We're far from the end," Mr. Bradley said.
Mr. Gore picked up the vote of a prominent new New Yorker Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"I voted for Al Gore because I think he'll be the best president we could have to begin this century," the first lady said as she left her polling place.
Mr. McCain had a bad day overall, but he was a popular choice at the Judith P. Hoyer Early Childhood Center, a precinct in Cheverly, Md.
"I think [Mr. McCain] has got a lot more character than Bush," said Carol Hoffman, 53, a chemical systems engineer for a law firm.
"I'm normally a Democrat, but I don't care for either Gore or Bradley," she said.
"I can't stand that frat boy, 'W,' said Republican Robert Haworth, 38, a chemical systems engineer who voted for Mr. McCain.
The Arizona senator "has the best intentions of America at heart and he's very experienced in foreign affairs," Mr. Haworth said.
Anthony Johnson, 39, a Democrat who works in commercial real estate, voted for Mr. Gore.
"The Democratic Party has done a lot for the economy, even though people don't want to give them the credit," Mr. Johnson said. "I'd like to see the success continue."
Mr. McCain's successes seemed to stop in New England, the same region where a blowout win in New Hampshire Feb. 1 seemed to give him promise.
Democrats and independents helped carry Mr. McCain to victories in Michigan and Arizona. But Mr. McCain never appealed to most Republicans, who gave Mr. Bush critical bounce-back victories Feb. 19 in South Carolina and Feb. 29 in Virginia.
Mr. Gore, hampered last spring by "Clinton fatigue" and a top-heavy campaign staff, retooled and moved his campaign to Nashville.
Mr. Gore began to attack Mr. Bradley's plan for universal health care and assumed a combative campaign style, promising to "fight" for voters.
Mr. Gore, buoyed by trade unions, beat Mr. Bradley soundly in the Iowa caucuses. The vice president then eked out a four-point victory over Mr. Bradley Feb. 1 in the New Hampshire primary.
Mr. Bradley never has recovered. He spent six days in Washington state, seeking a symbolic victory in that state's "beauty contest" before Super Tuesday, but Mr. Gore won by a 2-to-1 margin Feb. 29.
Mr. McCain, touting "straight talk," campaign-finance reform and his record as a Vietnam prisoner of war stunned Mr. Bush by 19 points in New Hampshire, winning among Republicans, Democrats and independents.
Mr. Bush rebounded with a victory in the bruising South Carolina primary.
Mr. McCain prevailed in Michigan and Arizona, but Mr. Bush won a trifecta Feb. 29, beating the Arizona senator in Virginia, North Dakota and Washington state.
Mr. Bush took criticism for spending his unprecedented war chest of $70 million with seemingly ill-advised purchases, such as a $2 million ad campaign in Arizona, Mr. McCain's home state.
The Texas governor protested that he had a national blueprint and was laying groundwork for the fall.

Dave Boyer in Austin, Texas, Sean Scully in Los Angeles and John Croft contributed to this report.

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