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CNN Today

South Carolina Primary: Candidates' Campaigns Show Democracy in Action Through All Mediums

Aired February 18, 2000 - 1:05 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: Well, if you live in South Carolina and have not been exposed to the candidates' advertising that Frank was talking about or events or phone calls or personal visits, you've probably been on vacation.

CNN's Jonathan Karl looks at some of the ways the campaigns woo the hearts and minds of Palmetto state voters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Signs, signs, everywhere signs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a new shipment of yard signs in, trying to, you know, show once and for all this is Bush country by just blanketing the state in blue and white signs.

KARL: The GOP front-runners are making a multimedia push like South Carolina has never seen before in a primary. Of course, it starts with TV ads. John McCain ads:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, McCain Campaign Ad)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to give the government back to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: McCain has sworn off negative ads, but George W. Bush has not.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, Bush Campaign Ad)

ANNOUNCER: Senator McCain? Five times he voted to use your taxes to pay for political campaigns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: There are ads by independent groups that don't like McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, National Smokers' Alliance Ad)

ANNOUNCER: In 1998, John McCain sponsored the largest consumer tax increase in history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: The radio ads can be harsher.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, Bush Radio Ad)

ANNOUNCER: John McCain says he's for tax cuts, yet he's proposed $150 billion in new taxes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: McCain is also getting attacked by Alan Keyes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, Keyes Campaign Ad)

ALAN KEYES (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why does he follow the Clinton policy when it comes to gays in the military?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: The Keyes ad does not hit Bush, even though his position on the issue is identical to McCain.

In South Carolina, the blitz is not limited to ads. The phone lines are busy, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I'm calling from the Bush for president campaign, and I wanted to encourage you to...

KARL: This is a volunteer phone bank for Bush, but both candidates are also running paid phone operations that make calls from out of state, and there's enough direct mail out there to keep the mailman on the run.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, junk mail.

(LAUGHTER)

KARL: Independent groups are in on the mail, too. Why does this little guy want you to vote for Bush? Because the National Right to Life says Bush is more anti-abortion than McCain.

But from TV ads to flyers, most of the material is churned out by the campaigns themselves.

South Carolinians are saturated with politics.

HEATH THOMPSON, S.C. DIR., BUSH CAMPAIGN: They're being inundated by both candidates now, by TV, by radio, by mail, by phone, any medium.

KARL: Get your name on one of these lists of undecided voters and you can count on several calls a day, making a volunteer's job difficult.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't even tell her who I was. She said, yes, it is, and I'm not voting for George Bush.

(LAUGHTER)

I mean, just right out of the chute!

(LAUGHTER)

KARL: And the frenzy of activity will go until the last minute.

THOMPSON: They'll go to precincts on Saturday, they'll check and make sure who's voted. They'll go back home and call the people who haven't voted in their precinct and tell them to get out to the polls.

(on camera): Spending on radio and TV ads here has smashed all previous records for a South Carolina presidential primary. Bush and McCain have spent almost six times as much as the two GOP front- runners spent here four years ago.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Columbia, South Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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