New Hampshire Primary: McCain Delivers Texas-Sized Whipping to Bush; Gore Ekes Out Hard Fought Win Over BradleyAired February 2, 2000 - 1:00 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A solid victory for John McCain in New Hampshire's Republican primary. He tells supporters it's a sign change is coming to Washington. On the Democratic side, Al Gore ekes out a hard fought win against Bill Bradley.
CNN's comprehensive coverage of the first primary of election 2000 continues. Thanks for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Once every four years, a bit like Brigadoon, the Granite State materializes on the political landscape. While it doesn't loom large for all that long, it can have a lasting impact, especially on front runners. Case in point, the GOP outcome for election 2000. Let's take a look at some of the outcome. We have the latest results.
First, on the Republican side, John McCain, a solid 49 percent. George W. Bush, 30 percent. Steve Forbes, only 13 percent. Alan Keyes at six percent. Gary Bauer, one percent. A big win for John McCain.
On the Democratic side, also a win but not as big, obviously. Al Gore at 52 percent, Bill Bradley at 48 percent.
Joining us now to talk a little bit about these numbers and to look behind these numbers, our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.
All right, Bill, what do these numbers mean, first of all, for John McCain?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this is an enormous win. Look, 49 percent is almost the majority of the vote in a five man field. It shows that, you know, he's got a tremendous momentum coming out of here, which he's got to translate into votes in all the other states because he doesn't have a lot of money to run on. He's really dependent wholly on momentum.
BLITZER: What combined to make this win so impressive for John McCain?
SCHNEIDER: Oh, well, Wolf, I think there were two things. One is the personal factor. He campaigned hard in this state, 114 town meetings. He was all over the place. Voters admired his biography. I'd say he won this more than anything else on biography, his personal qualities. He speaks his own mind. He's independent. He defied the party establishment on a number of issues and they admired him for that. It wasn't the issues. Campaign finance reform did not show up very strongly as a major concern to voters.
The second factor was McCain had moderate voters all to himself because he had defied the party establishment on a lot of issues and moderates admired that and they were about half the New Hampshire Republican primary voters and conservatives who might have supported George W. Bush ended up being split all over the place between McCain and Bush and Forbes and Keyes and Bauer. They were all over the place.
So McCain had moderates to himself and conservatives were not in Bush's corner.
BLITZER: All right, now George W. Bush, he came to New Hampshire, an impressive win in Iowa, what does he have to do now to get his train moving once again?
SCHNEIDER: Well, look, the Republican establishment, the party regulars have two choices. They can abandon ship and say look, George Bush doesn't look like a winner anymore, we're going to jump on the McCain bandwagon, he looks like a winner, or they can close ranks behind George Bush because they see McCain as some sort of an alien invader. I think the latter is more likely because they don't care for John McCain. They see him as someone who threatens the party values, the party establishment and we've already heard George Bush saying that he's going to paint this race as a race between a liberal to moderate Republican and a conservative Republican, namely himself, and try to get conservatives to close ranks behind him. That's what's going to happen next.
BLITZER: All right, now let's take a look at the Democrats now. Bill Bradley, he came close but not close enough. What did he do wrong?
SCHNEIDER: Well, I think Bill Bradley basically alienated a lot of traditional Republicans. He unchallenged the Republicans -- sorry, Democrats. I've got the wrong party here. He alienated a lot of traditional Democrats. He waited too long, I think, to fight back against Al Gore and they began to wonder does this guy have the fight that it takes to fight for the Democratic Party, to win this nomination?
Look, after all the experiences they've had with the Republican Congress, they really want a Democrat who shows some fight. Bradley didn't for quite a long time.
BLITZER: And as far as Al Gore is concerned, does he have to change anything in his strategy now in order to keep this momentum, if you will, going?
SCHNEIDER: Well, I think Al Gore had a, has a problem. He won New Hampshire but he won ugly. He beat up Bill Bradley pretty badly. Bradley didn't fight back until very late and I think that did do some damage but it also damaged Al Gore, his image, his reputation. A lot of voters personally say they don't care for Al Gore.
I think when he goes to subsequent states after New Hampshire he'll be in friendlier territory, more minority voters, more women voters, more union voters who really paid off big time. If there was any single reason behind the Al Gore victory it was the union voters delivered for him. Only a quarter of the vote, but the non-union voters voted for Bill Bradley.
There'll be friendlier terrain. He doesn't have to be quite as ugly, quite as tough with Bill Bradley.
BLITZER: And the numbers were pretty small, the margin of difference between Gore and Bradley only about 6,000 or so votes altogether.
SCHNEIDER: That's right. This is a state without many minority voters. It was very close. A lot of the upscale voters voted for Bill Bradley but there were enough union voters, enough women who delivered for the traditional Democratic Party establishment vote and they put Al Gore over. It's going to get easier for Al Gore as time goes on, but I don't think he can be quite as tough, quite as aggressive, quite as nasty as he was in New Hampshire against Bill Bradley.
BLITZER: All right, Bill Schneider, our senior political analyst.
Let's now turn to our Washington bureau chief, Frank Sesno. Frank, you've been talking to a lot of people, you've been looking at the strategy now, the Bush strategy. What does the Bush team, the Bush camp have to do right now?
FRANK SESNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What they have to do is they have to go out of this state and project a sense that George W. Bush is still in charge, that New Hampshire was an aberration, that the voters here are more independent, more liberal, that kind of thing, than they are elsewhere. He needs to go forward, they say, and not change his fundamental message, that is, that the tax plan is still central to his platform, that he represents the kind of compassionate conservatism that he and his advisers believe America wants.
Basically, it's to stay the course and to try to connect with those voters who are going to be more inclined to vote in a traditional establishment Republican way than they feel, his folks feel took place here in New Hampshire. Not just for George W. Bush, but for all the candidates today, today was a day of very high stakes.
SESNO (voice-over): The night belonged to John McCain.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I think, I think we finally have a poll without a margin of error.
SESNO: With a double digit win over George W. Bush, the Arizona senator upset the Republican apple cart. MCCAIN: I ask you to help me break the Washington iron triangle of big money, lobbyists and legislation that for too long has put special interests above the national interests. Thanks to you, my dear friends, today we made room. We made room and we have sent a powerful message to Washington that change is coming.
SESNO: McCain won big among independents. But more worrisome for Bush, McCain also won handily among registered Republicans. Now the hard part, translating his long shot insurgency into a full- fledged campaign.
MCCAIN: A wonderful New Hampshire campaign has come to an end but a great national crusade has just begun.
SESNO: Bush was supposed to be the establishment favorite. He maintains he still is.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: New Hampshire has long been known as a bump in the road for front runners and this year is no exception.
SESNO: The Bush campaign says it's got a strong 50 state strategy. But it was clearly stung by this loss. Conceded one top official, it's not happy stuff. McCain's margin here is much bigger than we thought. The other Republican candidates, Steve Forbes, Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer, finished far back. Forbes vows to fight on. Bauer is taking stock.
For the Democrats, Al Gore's stock has risen somewhat.
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This Tennessean is in the end zone and it feels great.
SESNO: But Gore's victory was a very narrow one after a bitter campaign and Bill Bradley says he's looking forward to the contests ahead.
BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But it's a fight about more than Al Gore or me. It's a fight about the kind of America we know we can become.
STUART ROTHENBERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the exit polls show that Al Gore won among people who were satisfied with the economy while Bill Bradley did well among independents and not surprisingly among people who were critical of Bill Clinton.
SESNO: There's little chance this feud will fizzle. Bradley and Gore are now sparring over whether they'll have weekly debates leading up to the critical March 7th primaries. And the Republicans? South Carolina is their next stop in a little over two weeks. The latest polls show Bush up by 20 points or so. McCain hopes his momentum out of New Hampshire will change that and the aura of inevitability that has surrounded the race for months.
Frank Sesno, CNN, Manchester, New Hampshire.
BLITZER: And Frank Sesno joins us once again.
Frank, the Al Gore, the strategy that he has to pursue right now, this is a complicated decision for him. Even though he's two for two, it's by no means a huge win tonight.
SESNO: No, as I said in the piece, this is not a big win for him. It's a very narrow win, in fact. They'd wanted to do better than this. But it is, as you say, he's two for two and that's the point they're going to make. The point they're also going to be making, and believe me, I've heard this on really all sides of the equation here, there's going to be pressure brought to bear on Bill Bradley now to get out of this race. What is he gaining by staying in?
It can't be too overt as far as Gore's actual strategy. They feel he's shed the sort of vice presidentitis problem. They think he's emerged, to some extent, in his own, in his own right. They think he's connected, got the right balance as to how to approach Clinton. The Clinton economy is something he wants. The Clinton scandal is something he does not.
And so for him, as for Bush, it's stay the course now. They think they've got a message, they think they've got something to go on. But Bradley's not down and out yet. He's not gone yet.
BLITZER: And he's not, there's no indication he's about to leave by any means.
SESNO: Not by any means.
BLITZER: All right, Frank Sesno, CNN's Washington bureau chief, thanks for joining us.
And still ahead on our New Hampshire primary special, political analysis of what all the numbers mean plus the reaction from the candidates. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Many would argue this is but one primary, can it affect what happens next? Let's ask two men who always have an opinion, Bill Press of CNN's CROSSFIRE and CNN political analyst Tony Blankley, former press secretary to Newt Gingrich.
All right, Tony, McCain says he gave it to the establishment. Does he mean the Republican establishment?
TONY BLANKLEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He means the Washington establishment very much including the Republican establishment and, I might say, the Republican establishment takes that very seriously. They really do not like McCain and do not want to see him elected president.
BLITZER: So if McCain is doing well, Bill Press, is that good news for the Democrats?
BILL PRESS, CNN CROSSFIRE: I think it's mixed news for the Democrats. I think all Democrats, myself included, loved seeing John McCain stick it to George W. Bush but at the same time if you're looking ahead to November, I personally believe John McCain is a much tougher -- would be a much tougher candidate to beat in November than George W. Bush, both because of his message and his resume.
And just quickly on what Tony has said, I think that John McCain's real victory here tonight was, and the real significance of his big win is that he came to this primary and to the Republican Party with a new message. It's not just tax cuts only anymore, he was saying. You've got to do more than that. The Republicans are better people than that. We can have tax cuts and the other things he was talking about.
BLITZER: Is John McCain a more formidable Republican in the contest against a Democrat than George W. Bush?
BLANKLEY: So far the polling does not show that. I think there's some sort of intuitive sense building that perhaps that's the case. We don't know yet. That's why I think South Carolina is going to be such a fascinating and important election because if McCain could replicate anything like this kind of a victory in South Carolina, then the Republican establishment has to take a very hard look and say who do we want, what do we care about more, having the White House back or having to live with McCain? It would be a close call.
BLITZER: Do you think most Republicans would rather have seen a debate against Al Gore, John McCain or George Bush?
BLANKLEY: Oh, look, sure, of course the Washington person -- and McCain, of course, is a person -- is always going to do, usually going to do better in a debate of all the details of Washington policy. That's always an outsider's problem and that'll be Bush's problem. There's no question about that.
PRESS: Well, I want to talk about the invincibility factor. I know you were just talking a little bit with Frank about that. I think it's a one-two punch. Last week's national poll showed that Bush only had a three point lead, now, basically, a statistical tie with Al Gore. Now, he loses this primary. I think people in the Republican establishment are starting to think this guy may not be the sure winner we thought.
If next week's national poll shows that he's losing to Al Gore for the first time, you know, the horse is out of the barn. I think this primary is wide open.
BLANKLEY: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. The horse is not quite out of the barn. There is, if anything, I was just talking to some Republicans in Washington this afternoon and evening, there is a rallying around Bush against McCain. There's an awful lot of good will with Bush and a lot of bad will with McCain. Now, McCain claimed this. I mean I'm not saying anything that McCain doesn't believe is also the case and he's running a campaign against that establishment.
BLITZER: All right, on the Democratic side...
BLITZER: Bill Bradley came close, he didn't come close enough. Could he have won this contest in New Hampshire had he done something different?
PRESS: Had he stayed out of Iowa I think he might have been able to...
BLITZER: It was a mistake for him to go to Iowa?
PRESS: I think it was a mistake for him to go to Iowa. But I've got to say what I've heard almost nobody else say tonight, Al Gore won this primary. He won it by four points. Where I come from, you win it by one point, that's a win. You've got to give Al Gore credit.
PRESS: Wait, Tony. He won two in a row in the two states that were made for Bill Bradley. It gets easier for Al Gore from now on because there are more minorities and more union members in Michigan and Chicago. So you've got to say Al Gore comes out of here with a head of steam.
BLANKLEY: No, he has a very tiny little head of steam. This is a very unsatisfying victory. It is a victory and I don't like these expectation gains calculations. He won.
PRESS: Right. Thank you.
BLANKLEY: He won 52-48. But does he feel good about that win? My hunch would be no. My hunch would be that this looks like he has not put Bradley away. In fact, Bradley looks strong and vigorous and he's got a long campaign ahead of him. So it's not, it's a victory, but it's not a knock out punch.
PRESS: Well, I just came from spending some time with Carter Eskew and Bob Shrum and they love Pat...
BLITZER: Both of them work for Al Gore.
PRESS: Both of them work for Al Gore and manage his campaign.
BLANKLEY: You may have been brainwashed.
PRESS: They -- I wasn't brainwashed. They looked happy because they were behind here, as you know, for weeks and weeks.
BLANKLEY: And you know...
PRESS: Al Gore came here and he won this, he won this primary.
BLANKLEY: Wait a minute. You say looked happy, everybody knows who's a professional in the political business you go out, no matter how bad a shellacking you got, you walk out smiling and saying lucky me.
PRESS: No. Hey, Al Gore won.
BLITZER: Very quickly, Tony, what happens to the three other Republicans who did not do well, Steve Forbes, Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer?
BLANKLEY: I think for Forbes, he keeps going because he wants to keep going. He's got the money, he'll keep going because he's going to keep going. For Bauer, he's got a difficult call. He's run a dignified campaign, he's been a principled candidate. Now he begins to look why, the question is why are you still in the race? Now, he can stay in and he can make his case, but I think for his own interests he may start thinking it's now the time to go out. I think Keyes probably stays a while longer.
PRESS: I think Keyes stays until they turn the lights off in Philadelphia and Bill Bradley stays and I think Bill Bradley should stay in. He's got a good message, he ran a strong campaign. He'll be there certainly through California and New York on March 7th.
BLITZER: All right, Bill Press, Tony Blankley, good of you to stay up late here in Manchester, New Hampshire. Thanks for joining us on our special coverage of election 2000.
BLANKLEY: Well, we've enjoyed it.
BLITZER: We've seen the numbers and heard from our experts. Next, the spin from the people who count the most. We'll hear from candidates when our New Hampshire primary special continues.
BLITZER: Here in New Hampshire they say residents don't decide who to vote for until they've met a candidate at least three times. It's a very long campaign.
Exit polls show about three out of 10 Democratic voters saw at least one of their candidates. Vice President Gore won this battle, but both candidates say the fight's not over yet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: During the day today, some people thought this might be like the Super Bowl. They thought that we might fall a yard short. But let me tell you, let me tell you, this Tennessean is in the end zone and it feels great. Thanks to you. And you ain't seen nothing yet. We've just begun to fight.
This was a hard fought campaign. Senator Bradley was a tough competitor who made us fight for every vote and I believe the contest made us stronger. As a matter of fact, I know it did. Instead of slogans, we offered specific plans. Instead of lofty words, we debated substance and I pledge to you again tonight I will never make a negative personal attack in this campaign. I'm going to talk about the substance, the issues, the future, your future.
I believe that we have a chance in the rest of this campaign to make the single greatest commitment to education since the G.I. bill, to balance the budget, to pay down our debt, to reduce the burden on the children, for clean air and clean water, for civil rights and for women's rights, we have just begun to fight. For an equal day's pay for an equal day's work, for a woman's right to choose, which must never be threatened, never taken away, never weakened, we've just begun to fight.
BRADLEY: New Hampshire is a state of frank talk, independent thinking and town meetings and I loved every day. I know all of you have worked your hearts out. This has been a joyous journey since my first event in Jaffrey last January. People have trusted me with their stories and I'll never forget them. They've trusted me with their hopes and I'll always honor them. We have made a remarkable turnaround but there is still a tough fight ahead.
Al Gore has run a strong race and I congratulate him. But we're smarter and better prepared and we're ready and eager to continue the fight. But it's a fight about more than Al Gore or me. It's a fight about the kind of America we know we can become. For this election is not merely a choice between two individuals, between two men with different backgrounds and experience. It's a choice between philosophies of leadership. It's a choice between those who are content with our great prosperity and those who regret our failure to use the great opportunity which prosperity has given us to provide care for the ill, to lift up millions from poverty, to heal the wounds of racial divide.
And in the battles that are to come, I ask you to join me to prove that the oldest political party on earth is the newest in energy and imagination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now for the Republicans, Governor George W. Bush was gracious in accepting today's defeat, but insists he'll be the eventual nominee. And an obviously elated Senator John McCain began his acceptance speech with a reference to all of the town hall meetings he's had with voters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Thank you very much. Thank you and god bless and welcome to our 115th town hall meeting here in New Hampshire. And I think, I think we finally have a poll without a margin of error. My friends, last June I asked the people of New Hampshire to make room in this election and in our party for the forces of reform. I asked you to help me break the Washington iron triangle of big money, lobbyists and legislation that for too long has put special interests above the national interests. Well, thanks to you, my dear friends, today we made room. We made room and we have sent a powerful message to Washington that change is coming.
This is a good thing, my friends, a good thing, and it is the beginning of the end because today the Republican Party has recovered its heritage of reform, and this is a good thing, and it is the beginning of the end for the truth twisting politics of Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
My friends, in the weeks and months ahead, I may say things you want to hear and I may say things you don't want to hear. But you will always, you will always hear the truth from me no matter what.
BUSH: I just placed a phone call to my friend John McCain to congratulate him on the race he ran here in New Hampshire. He ran a really good race and a strong race. He spent more time in this great state than any of the other candidates and it paid off. And tonight is his night and the night of his supporters and we all congratulate him.
I also want to congratulate my team. New Hampshire has long been known as a bump in the road for front runners and this year is no exception. The road to the Republican nomination and the White House is a long road. Mine will go through all 50 states and I intend it to end at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I am a better candidate for having come to New Hampshire and waging this campaign and because of this competition. I've enjoyed the fire station chats and the citizens' questions, the Fourth of July parades. Believe it or not, the Fourth of July parades when it was nearly 100 degrees. And the debates.
I've gained respect for this state and its citizens. I want to thank each of you for your thoughtful questions, for your sincere (AUDIO GAP) and for the important part you play in our democracy.
The campaign now leaves New Hampshire but I intend to be back and I intend to win this state for the Republican Party come November.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: When the other Republican candidates spoke tonight, there were a number of violations of Ronald Reagan's old 11th commandment, the one that says thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican. Some of them did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN KEYES (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will congratulate John McCain on his victory. But I cannot agree with the stands that he has portrayed in this election on the issues. The Republican Party is in danger of going down a fateful road and I believe that John McCain exemplifies that fateful choice almost as well as Al Gore or Bill Clinton.
When radical elements in the homosexuality community are moving forward to challenge the most important and fundamental institutions of our way of life with their agenda, to overthrow those concepts of sexual and moral responsibility essential to our family, that is not the time to say, as John McCain has said, that such issues do not belong in our politics. We need leaders who will meet the moral challenge that now threatens the foundations of our family and our civilization. John McCain is not that man.
STEVE FORBES (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now begins the battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. And now I make this appeal to conservatives who may have backed others because of inevitability. I plead with you please come home.
GARY BAUER (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our first right is the right to life. I have believed all of my political career that America could never be a shining city on a hill unless it welcomed all of its children into the world, unless all of those children had a place at the table, unless all of those children were protected by the constitution and Declaration of Independence.
This will define who we are. This will stick in our throats until we get it right. On this I will not be moved. On this I will not go away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Gary Bauer says he's going home now to think about the future of his campaign. Bauer says he's a fighter, but he isn't delusional.
And there's much more ahead on tonight's New Hampshire primary and it's potential effect on election 2000. But when we return, an update on the deadly crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261. CNN's Jim Moret will be reporting from Channel Islands Harbor near the scene of the tragedy.
BLITZER: Our other major story of the day, the search and rescue effort off California for Alaska Airlines Flight 261.
CNN's Jim Moret is near the crash site at Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard. Jim, what's the latest?
JIM MORET, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a witness to the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 released a statement, a written statement. National Park Service maintenance worker Drew Gatshaw (ph) said he, "Looked up, heard the aircraft, followed its path visually till it hit the water and continued. After it hit the water and disappeared, it was just me and the gulls out there." Now, the NTSB says it wants to interview the crews of as many as four other planes in the area who may have seen the final moments of Flight 261.
MORET (voice-over): Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and other local boats continue to comb the 36 square mile debris field, which is roughly eight to 10 miles off the coast. They will be there throughout the night.
Four bodies have been recovered, including an infant. But the Coast Guard has not yet given hope that some of the 88 people on board may have survived.
VICE ADMIRAL TOM COLLINS, U.S. COAST GUARD: We continue to search for human lives. I'm not yet ready to make the decision to stop searching. It will remain a difficult decision. I will not make that decision till tomorrow morning. We're going to give this every opportunity.
MORET: Memorials have already sprung up on the beaches near here. Some family members have already visited them. The Red Cross is planning to take relatives of crash victims to the site on Thursday. Some 45 relatives are at the family assistance center, set up at a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport. Thirty-five more friends and relatives are expected to arrive on Wednesday.
The NTSB released a preliminary information of the final communications between the plane and ground controllers, giving some insight into the final minutes of that flight.
JOHN HAMMERSCHMIDT, NTSB MEMBER: The crew checked in, advising that they had a jammed stabilizer and were experiencing difficulty maintaining altitude. But they thought they could maintain altitude and intended to land at lax, Los Angeles.
MORET: One minute after that call, the crew made its final radio contact with the ground. Five minutes later, ground controllers lost radar contact and I remind you, this is simply a preliminary time line released by the NTSB. The NTSB, in addition, said it has identified an electronic pinging believed to be either the flight data or voice recorder of the plane under some 700 feet of water. Investigators have called in high tech underwater gear which will be used to search the ocean floor.
Jim Moret reporting live from Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, California. Wolf, back to you in New Hampshire.
BLITZER: OK, Jim, thanks again.
Now back to election 2000. As we've been reporting, primary voters in New Hampshire have had their say. The Granite State gave the nod to Democratic front runner Al Gore, although not by much. And it upset GOP expectations by handing Republican John McCain a major win over George W. Bush.
Let's take a look at the latest vote boards. First of all, on the Republican side, John McCain with 49 percent of the vote, George W. Bush at 30 percent, Steve Forbes, Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer distant, distantly third, fourth and fifth. On the Democratic side, Al Gore narrowly beats Bill Bradley. Take a look at the actual numbers with 98 percent of the vote in, 75,400 to 68,800, 52 percent to 48 percent. Now, some primary perspective from both sides of the aisle. Our guests join us from our Los Angeles bureau, the key electoral state of California. They are Democratic strategist Bill Carrick and GOP activist and former U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Herschensohn.
Thank you so much, gentlemen, for joining us on this very important night.
Let's look ahead, first of all to Bruce, to California. How does the California prospect on the Republican side look first of all? George W. Bush, once he gets the California and, of course, John McCain, they have to fight it out in South Carolina and a few other states before that. But if they get to California, what does it look like right now?
BRUCE HERSCHENSOHN (R), FORMER SENATE CANDIDATE: Wolf, only a crazy man would give a prediction right now on California. I think it's the first election in my adult lifetime where as a conservative I don't have every, the people that I'm with aren't saying we're all for the same guy.
By and large it's been Steve Forbes, but then you have people all over the map. We almost have an embarrassment of riches and I suppose now the concentration will be more on California and New York and some of the bigger states now that at least Iowa and New Hampshire are out of the way. But I would not want to make a prediction at this point.
BLITZER: What about you, Bill? Do you have any sense of where it would look, first of all, on the Republican side in California?
BILL CARRICK, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think the Republican side is very hard to read here. Senator McCain has spent a little bit of time here but not a lot. He's captured a sort of populist reform message that sort of resonates off the old Reform Party. It's about campaign finance and tough fiscal standards and, you know, I don't know. It's very hard to read here because I think Bruce is right, we don't really know where conservative Republican primary voters are going to land in March 7th in California.
BLITZER: Well, take a look, Bill, then on the Democratic side, California has a reputation for sort of liking these insurgent kind of candidates. (AUDIO GAP) beat Al Gore in California on that very major primary in March?
CARRICK: I think California's tough for Bill Bradley. The demographics of the state are much better for Al Gore than either Iowa or New Hampshire, particularly better than New Hampshire. The vice president's going to have a resurgent labor movement that is going to be very strongly for him. He's going to do very well in the minority communities, African-Americans, Latinos and Asians. He has a strong loyal base of Clinton followers in the state and a lot of Democrats here credit the Clinton administration for getting California out of the recession in '92 and that really helps Al Gore.
There's a strong sense of Clinton popularity here still among Democratic primary voters and that will help the vice president a lot. BLITZER: And Bruce, if you're looking ahead as a Republican to the contest between, let's say, George W. Bush and John McCain in California, a lot of independents say they're going to try to help McCain in California. Is that a done deal as far as you're concerned, that McCain will capture those Republicans or those leaning towards an independent posture?
HERSCHENSON: Wolf, nothing in California is a done deal. It just isn't. And I just want to express one thing that I think at least to me is important. I think that in a sense the big loser tonight was the president, President Clinton, because what happened was that John McCain and Bill Bradley, I think more on the basis of character, won this, won this election and they did it in contrast to what we've had in the White House during all of these years.
If it was another year, I'm not so sure that McCain and Bradley would have done as well as they did, McCain this tremendous, tremendous win and Bradley doing awfully well, only four points below. And I think it's due to a feeling of the American people, certainly the people of New Hampshire, that this was a time when character was the most important thing, not a particular issue, but the person himself.
BLITZER: OK, Bruce Herschensohn, Bill Carrick, always good to get your perspectives on what's happening out on the west coast, especially, of course, in California.
BLITZER: Thanks for joining us.
BLITZER: And coming up in our election special, we'll spend 48 hours with a veteran journalist who's covered three decades and eight presidential elections with the New Hampshire primaries.
BLITZER: New Hampshire has been holding the first in the nation presidential primary since 1952. "Boston Globe" political columnist David Nyhan doesn't go back quite that far, but since the 1960s, he's been watching the would be presidents come and go and keeping track of the changes in the system that elects them.
Last week, CNN's "NEWSSTAND"'s Carol Lin spent a couple of days with him on the road in the Granite State.
DAVID NYHAN, "BOSTON GLOBE": Don't leave without me, boys.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Right now it's coming down an inch to an inch and a half an hour so they just can't keep the roadways clear.
NYHAN: I've been coming up to New Hampshire every year since 1968, every presidential election, and there's always a surprise in New Hampshire.
CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three decades and eight presidential elections later, David Nyhan is still traveling the same road.
NYHAN: In 1972, the surprise was George McGovern coming in a close second to Ed Muskie. It was a day a lot like today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED MUSKIE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First, to say to Mr. Lowell, who is the publisher of this paper, that he has lied about me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NYHAN: And we stood at Muskie's feet while he mounted a flatbed truck in front of the old "Union Leader" newspaper office and that very conservative paper had run a column attacking Muskie's wife.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUSKIE: You're a good woman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NYHAN: The snow started piling up on his eyebrows and on his bare head and Muskie sort of choked up. It looked to me like he was sort of silently sobbing or just had an emotional moment. Nowadays, it's a sign of sort of a '90s guy can cry in public. But in 1972, crying was definitely bad form.
Jerry, this is Dave Nyhan. I wanted to just catch up with you and see how it was going and take your temperature on New Hampshire.
LIN: It's 12:15 and Nyhan is running late for an Al Gore rally at a Manchester high school.
NYHAN: OK, ready to lock up?
I've been around a long time doing it and New Hampshire is my back yard and I have the luxury as a columnist of picking and choosing my spots.
Let's see what we got here.
How you doing? God, it's snowing out there.
ALICE BERNARD: I know.
NYHAN: Which way is Mondale, I mean Gore or whatever his name is?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you missed him.
NYHAN: How are you? What's your name?
BERNARD: Alice Bernard (ph).
NYHAN: Alice, how are you? You want to be on television?
BERNARD: No, I don't want to be on TV.
NYHAN: Let me tell you, Alice Bernard, she's a top shelf person here in the kitchen.
Oh, look at this. Come on, are you kidding me?
BERNARD: No. You want one? You want one?
NYHAN: OK. Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
LIN (on camera): What's the biggest difference for you covering the campaign today than when you covered it 30 years ago back in 1970?
NYHAN: It was like the fireman jumping off the fire truck, running over to the fire, squirting what little, you know, 400 words into the wire service, jumping back on the fire truck and roaring off to the next place.
What did you do here? Did you have...
CHARLES BAKER, GORE CAMPAIGN: Big rally, yeah.
BAKER: And a speech, sort of, he had, you know, got up for the -- he actually stayed up all night, did the morning show then we had a big rally.
NYHAN: Are you registered to vote? Come over here.
UNIDENTIFIED NYHAN: I'm not registered.
NYHAN: Are you registered to vote? Get out of here. We only want voters.
And now, because I write an opinion column, I was telling one of the reporters on our paper the difference between my column and a lot of other columns is that when you come into my saloon you get a real drink. In other words, I tell you what I think.
Yup, you've got it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behind you. Oh, man. Come on.
LIN: So instead of being in the eye of the storm, you're choosing to sort of feel the story out from the edges?
NYHAN: I mentioned to somebody today it's the difference between a short order cook and as a chef having a little bit more time to prepare the bouillabaisse.
It would be great if I could get from you an estimate of the dollar value to the state of New Hampshire of this vast enterprise known as the New Hampshire primary.
LIN (voice-over): David Nyhan's rush is finding what the media mob might miss.
SEAN O'KANE, MANCHESTER HOLIDAY INN: It's interesting, the "Manchester Union Leader" once used the figure $35 million.
LIN: Like a hotel manager who gives his personal take on the local economy.
NYHAN: And the number turns out to be more in the range of $175 million to $200 million.
There used to be much more of a sense of camaraderie and fellowship among the journalists. In the '70s and '80s, it used to be that if you went out to Iowa, for instance, I can remember splitting up the deal with, you know, Jack Germond would go to one and Jules Witcover would go to another and I would go to a third and you'd meet at night and have dinner and a couple of drinks and you'd exchange intelligence and put interviews together.
LIN: Nyhan ends this day at Manchester's Wayfarer Inn, an old watering hole for some of New England's most seasoned political writers.
JACK GERMOND, "THE BALTIMORE SUN": You know, you've got to be careful if you're an old, an old reporter that you understand who is contemporarily relevant. So I enjoy seeing these old friends of mine. But I also know I've got to know who the young ones are who know something because if you don't you get beat.
NYHAN: You competed for the respect of your peers and I remember when I went to Washington and first met Tip O'Neill and began to meet with him daily when I covered the Congress and even when I covered the White House. I'd go to see O'Neill all the time. If you have information and you can share information with a politician, the more you know the more you get. And when I used to go to see O'Neill every day he'd say to me, "Hello, Dave. What do you hear, old pal? What do you hear?"
Senator McCain, thank you very much for joining us.
LIN: It's an early start for Dave Nyhan. It is debate day.
MCCAIN: And I am grateful to have the opportunity to be back with you.
LIN: The candidates make their push on the radio at a Manchester diner. Yesterday, Nyhan tried to cover Gore. Today he hones in on McCain.
NYHAN: Two years ago when I would go out with John McCain and we'd go to a coffee shop like this and there'd be nobody with him and I'd walk in, we'd sit down, we'd have a sandwich and he would talk and say, you know, I'd like to run, this is my last chance, I'll be 63 years old, I've got one shot, I love this country, I want to do it, I'm really afraid that my wife Cindy is going to lose her privacy.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: In between what and what, senator?
NYHAN: My family will be dragged into it.
MCCAIN: Hey, David, it's great to see you my friend. It's wonderful to see you. Thank you, sir. Yeah, it was great.
NYHAN: It's hard not to have your privacy destroyed.
Let's go eat.
LIN (on camera): You allow yourself to have personal feelings about the candidate and his family?
NYHAN: Sure. Yeah. Doesn't, don't we all? Yeah.
LIN: Does it make it harder for a print reporter like yourself to cover the campaign?
NYHAN: Well, it would be nicer to get a seat.
Hello, Mrs. Tsongas. Dave Nyhan. How are you? Nice to see you.
LIN (voice-over): Covering politics in print has brought him to the world of network television.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If tonight is one of his last shots.
I think it's his seventh game.
BLITZER: Joining us now, David Nyhan of the "Boston Globe" and Ron Bronston (ph) of the "Los Angeles Times," two of the best political reporters out there.
David, on the Republican side, what are you going to be looking for in this first 90 minute debate?
NYHAN: Bush protecting his lead, Forbes tossing bombs.
LIN: As his day draws to a close, he sits in a sea of more than 300 reporters. This is a game he still loves to play.
NYHAN: It's like a sports writer covering the Super Bowl or a heavyweight fight. The chance to be around, you know, most people feel they can't influence politics or government or anything and I've carved out a little niche here as an opinion influencer. I just, I love the process. I've been doing it for, this is my eighth election and I've got a few more left in me.
BLITZER: And this time around David Nyhan had some company here in New Hampshire. His 17-year-old daughter came along for an up close look at how politics and political reporting is done.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: The battle for New Hampshire is over, but of course the battle for the White House is just beginning. The candidates and their campaign teams are already looking ahead and are busy planning their strategies for what shapes up as two political road maps out of the Granite State.
BLITZER (voice-over): For the Republicans, it continues in one week with the February 8th Delaware primary. But that's largely a two man contest, Bush versus Forbes. McCain is not campaigning there. For the maverick senator, the real challenge will be on February 19th in South Carolina, where he's invested a great deal of time and money.
LEE BANDY, POLITICAL WRITER, "THE STATE": He has a two state strategy and if you have only a two state strategy, you have to win both states. And right now here in South Carolina, history is on Bush's side.
BLITZER: Three days later, on February 22nd, McCain will be on home turf in Arizona, but polls show a close contest there. Governor Jane Hull has endorsed Bush. Also that day, the Michigan primary. Governor John Engler has assured Bush a big win there.
On February 29th, it's on to Washington State, North Dakota and Virginia. The next big test is March 7th, with the Republican and Democratic primaries in California, Missouri, Ohio, Georgia, Maryland, New York and the rest of New England as well as a handful of caucus states. It's the single largest delegate selection day of the season for the Republicans, nearly 30 percent at stake.
After a five week hiatus in voting among Democrats, nearly 30 percent of the Democratic delegates will be at stake on that first Tuesday in March.
BRADLEY: After Iowa and New Hampshire, we have the first national primary, which is a totally different terrain and requires a totally different kind of campaigning.
BLITZER: Al Gore has a big advantage in organization while the key for Bill Bradley will be California, where he's raised big sums of money, especially in Silicon Valley and in New York, where he starred as an NBA basketball player.
LEE MIRINGOFF, MARIST INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC OPINION: New York provides for Bradley a little bit of a home court advantage. Clearly he's better known there. But Bradley needs to, he needs to break the pattern that we've seen in Iowa, we see in New Hampshire where the thing starts, it's fairly close and then as the primary or caucus approaches, things don't seem to be breaking his way enough.
BLITZER: If there's still a race, it almost certainly will be over by March 14th with primaries in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Florida.
The southern roots of both Bush and Gore give them a strong edge there.
BLITZER: And recapping the results from the nation's first primary here in New Hampshire, let's take a look at the boards. First of all, on the Republican side, John McCain almost 50 percent, 49 percent, followed by George W. Bush at 30 percent, Steve Forbes 13 percent, Alan Keyes at six percent, Gary Bauer with one percent of the vote.
On the Democratic side, Al Gore 52 percent, Bill Bradley at 48 percent, a very close race. And take a look at this. This is the headline for tomorrow morning's "Manchester Union Leader," Wednesday morning's newspaper, "McCain Crushes Bush, Gore Slips By Bradley." That seems to say it all right here in New Hampshire.
And that wraps up this election 2000 special. Thanks very much for watching and be sure to stay with CNN in the days, weeks and months ahead for continuing coverage of election 2000.
From Manchester, New Hampshire, I'm Wolf Blitzer. For all of us here at CNN, good night.
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