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Press Bill Press is co-host of CNN's Crossfire. He is providing exclusive analysis to CNN allpolitics.com during the election season.

Bill Press: Bush's victory is a hollow one

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Both Al Gore and George W. Bush wore big smiles Tuesday night.

And with good reason. They survived. They triumphed. They won the prize. But there was a big difference.

Al Gore's smile will last because his victory was so solid. Bush's smile will soon disappear because his victory was so hollow.

The results from California tell the whole story. With its wild, wacky, open primary -- what else do you expect from the left coast? -- California was the first real test of how Gore and Bush will fare nationwide in November. And the signs don't look good for Junior.

In the non-binding popular ballot, where everyone could vote, Gore outpolled both Bush and McCain. Not only that: Remember that Spanish-speaking Texas governor who promised to bring Latinos back to the Republican party? In California, Latinos voted for Gore over Bush by more than 2-1. Adios, amigo!

Even in the closed, Republicans-only, vote, Bush's weakness showed. As in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Michigan, he won only among conservative Republicans -- who turned out in record numbers Tuesday, in California and elsewhere, as part of Pat Robertson's revenge against John McCain. Bush lost among moderates and independents, those all-important swing voters -- as he has in every major primary so far.

In other words, the miracle man who would reach out and broaden the party, hasn't. So far, despite blowing a record $70 million, he has only succeeded in solidifying the party's established, conservative base. Ask President Bob Dole how close that gets you to the White House.

On issues, California holds more bad news for George Bush. When two-thirds of voters say the country is on the right track, it's hard to make a case for change. When 72 percent say the budget surplus should first be used to strengthen Social Security and Medicare, it's impossible to make a case for giving all the surplus away in a giant, unnecessary, unwanted, across-the-board tax cut.

California, much more than Iowa or New Hampshire, reflects the national vote. Granted, Bush and Gore will make it a tough contest and a close election, but -- based on returns in Reaganland -- the Republicans' anointed candidate appears to be the wrong man at the wrong time in the wrong place.

It's like buying a new cell phone, only to get it home and find out it won't dial long-distance. Once out of the wrapper, George Bush simply has not displayed the reach or breadth that was advertised on the original package.

Perhaps Republicans who counted on winning back the White House in November can sue for deceptive advertising. If not, they might want to exchange this defective product for a better one -- before it's too late.

 
ELECTION 2000

WHAT'S AT STAKE

RACES
If you need to know who's up in 1999 or 2000 and what seats are open launch this quick guide.

THE STATES
Who are your elected officials? What is the past presidential vote and number of electoral votes in your state? Find out with these state political and election facts.

POLLS
Check out the latest numbers or dig back into the poll archives.

COMMUNITY


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Wednesday, March 8, 2000


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