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CNN Today

McCain, Bradley Have Most to Gain and Lose in New Hampshire

Aired January 31, 2000 - 2:32 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: This snowperson is not running for anything in very politically oriented New Hampshire today, which has the distinction of holding the nation's first primary, as you know. In less than 12 hours, the people of New Hampshire will begin trudging through that snow to cast their ballots and in the process possibly make or break a campaign or two.

For the latest, let's go back to Manchester. Warm as toast, CNN's Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Lou.

The candidate who probably has the most to lose and the most to gain here in New Hampshire is Arizona Senator John McCain. In a frenzied day of appearances, McCain is predicting the win he requires to try to seize the momentum from national front-runner, George W. Bush.

On the other hand, a loss tomorrow could herald the end of McCain's insurgent-style bid. Our latest three-day tracking poll has McCain leading Bush just barely by 10 points here in New Hampshire among likely Republican voters.

Joining us now to talk a little bit about this Republican race and more is CNN's political analyst, Bob Novak, who's been covering politics since 1960. He knows a little bit about this subject.

The McCain bid: Do you believe it's do-or-die, even if he comes in just second, slightly behind Bush?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": If he finishes second, by one vote, he's dead.

BLITZER: Why?

NOVAK: It was told to me by -- said to me today by Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, congressman. You remember, he was one of the impeachment managers.

BLITZER: Right.

NOVAK: Big supporter of McCain, came up to New Hampshire today to travel around with him. And he says they might as well not go on to South Carolina if he loses New Hampshire. He needs a one-vote victory in New Hampshire to show credibility.

Now I would say this, the McCain people expect to win, and the Bush people will not be surprised if they lose here.

BLITZER: And Lindsey...

NOVAK: But Bush...

BLITZER: Lindsey Graham is from South Carolina.

NOVAK: That's right.

BLITZER: So he knows on February 19th what to expect in that primary.

NOVAK: He's his main man now. He's McCain's main man in South Carolina.

On the other hand, if Bush loses, he goes on to a lot of things. He goes next to February to Delaware where McCain is not contesting it. Bush runs against Steve Forbes -- big favorite. And then they have a showdown on February 13th in South Carolina.

BLITZER: All right now. If we take a look at the three more conservative Republicans, Gary Bauer, Steve Forbes, Alan Keyes, poll numbers show they might cumulatively wind up with about 25 percent of the vote, as opposed to 15 percent they got in the Iowa caucuses. Who do they hurt more if they do well as a group McCain or Bush?

NOVAK: I think they hurt Bush more. All of those votes are going to come out of Bush's hide. Because there are some people who don't like Bush, they're looking for somebody else do go with. But I think, Wolf, it's going to be a lot less than 25 percent. All three are fading very badly. Steve Forbes got a bump out of his relatively strong second-place finish in Iowa going into New Hampshire, but everybody thinks he's fading, too.

BLITZER: And the independent voters in this state, they can go in, they're not registered Democrats, registered Republicans, they can vote for anyone that want.

NOVAK: I've been talking to independent voters at rallies here for several weeks, and they are interesting. Some of them change their minds in the middle of a conversation with me. I talked to one lawyer at Senator McCain's Concord rally, independent voter. He said he had been for Vice President Gore. Well, he looks at the advertising against Gore, thinks Gore doesn't tell the truth. He is switching from Gore, thought he would go for McCain, very decent man. So I went up to him after McCain's speech. I said, how are you going to do? He says McCain is too much of a Republican. He thinks he's going to for Bradley.

Now that guy has changed his mind in one day twice. How can you poll when you have 28 percent of the electorate who are switching around and not being able to make up their mind? BLITZER: And you know, you said earlier it was do-or-die for McCain in New Hampshire. Are you going to say the same thing for Bradley here in New Hampshire?

NOVAK: Well, it's not do-or-die for staying in the race. Bill Bradley is so angry at Al Gore, it doesn't matter how bad he gets beat, going to continue on. He's got lots of money and he's going to go on. I would say it is close to do-or-die one being viable here. I think it would be -- he really needs a win in New Hampshire, but he's going to stay in anyway.

The thing I find all the suggestions are is that Al Gore is going to win unless there's a huge outpouring of independent support for Bradley instead of McCain in the Republican primary. But, Wolf, I just find -- can I use the word "hatred"? -- between the Bradley and Gore camps. It's very gentlemanly between McCain and Bush, but Bradley and Gore are acting like old-time Democrats. They really hate each other. Will they make up before the November election? We don't know.

BLITZER: Bob Novak, you can say anything you want. The host of CNN's "CROSSFIRE," "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS," "THE CAPITAL GANG," thanks so much for joining us.

NOVAK: My pleasure Wolf, thank you.

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