NEW HAMPSHIRE: Gore Sneaks By Bradley, McCain Upsets Bush
Bill Bradley's repeated attacks on Vice President Al Gore's "truthfulness and commitment to such Democratic touchstones as abortion rights ... and universal health care" were not enough to propel the former senator to a victory yesterday in New Hampshire (Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 2/2). Bradley suffered a narrow defeat to Gore, who captured the Democratic primary with a 52% to 47% vote. On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) upset Texas Gov. George W. Bush with a resounding 49% to 31% victory (Balz, Washington Post, 2/2). Overall, Democratic voters were more concerned about health care than GOP supporters, with 18% citing it as their top priority, compared to only 5% of Republicans. Among Democrats, the issue was second only to education (Los Angeles Times exit poll, 2/2). Those Democrats who cited health care as important voted largely for Bradley, while Gore got the education vote (Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, 2/2). However, the Washington Post notes that even though Bradley was heavily favored overall among primary voters concerned about health care, 35% of voting Democrats said that "Gore has the better health plan," while only 30% rated Bradley's better. Analyst Thomas Edsall writes that Bradley's failure to "make inroads among the core Democrats who will eventually decide the party's nomination" could spell trouble for him in later contests (2/2). His main challenge, analysts predict, will be to better differentiate himself from Gore in states where he will not have the luxury of a "disproportionate presence of his core constituency: upscale, independent-minded white voters," as he did in New Hampshire. The Wall Street Journal reports that despite his recent attacks against Gore, "on all the most emotionally charged issues within the party -- trade, abortion rights, civil rights, education, health care -- the two men are campaigning in fundamental agreement, with differences only of degree and emphasis" (Harwood, 2/2).
As for abortion, a squabbling point lately for candidates of both parties, "the issue in the end did not seem to have played a role in voters' decisions (Berke, New York Times, 2/2). Only 2% of Democratic primary voters and 3% of participants on the GOP race cited the issue as an important factor in their decision (Los Angeles Times exit poll, 2/2). Of the one in 10 Republicans who supported banning abortion, most voted for Bush. However, "among those with other views on abortion -- those who said it should be illegal in most cases, legal in most cases or legal in all cases -- backed McCain" (New York Times, 2/2).
Despite losses in New Hampshire and Iowa, the Bradley camp has vowed to continue on to the March 7 "quasi-national primary," during which voters in New York, Ohio, California and 12 other states will have their say. After issuing a challenge to Gore to hold weekly debates, Bradley said yesterday, "There's still a tough fight ahead. [But] we're smarter, and we're better prepared, and we're eager to continue the fight" (Wall Street Journal, 2/2). The Republicans, in the meantime, are readying for the Feb. 19 South Carolina primary, sure to be a "major test of strength" for McCain, who declared his victory a "beginning of the end for the truth-twisting politics of Bill Clinton and Al Gore" and a new birth for the GOP's "heritage of reform." Bush, for his part, conceded defeat, but maintained, "New Hampshire has long been known as a bump in the road for frontrunners. And this year is no exception. The road to the Republican nomination and the White House is a long road. Mine will go through 50 states ... and end at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" (Balz, Washington Post, 2/2). According to polls, Bush currently holds a 20-point lead over McCain in South Carolina (Dobbin/Hamburger, Raleigh News & Observer, 2/2). After placing second in Iowa, Steve Forbes came in a distant third with 13%, and pledged to continue his campaign, noting, "The battle for the soul of the Republican Party has begun." Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer finished fourth and fifth, respectively (Scully, Washington Times, 2/2).