Election 2000: South Carolina Primary 'Unusually Polarized'Aired February 18, 2000 - 2:04 p.m. ET
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LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: In the presidential race, CNN's latest poll indicates George W. Bush has opened up a lead against John McCain in the state of South Carolina, whose crucial test of the two Republicans looms tomorrow, South Carolina primary. The survey shows Bush with a 12-point lead among those likely to vote in the primary. The margin of error there is plus or minus 5 percentage points. That's one point higher than the backing it reflects for third-place GOP candidate Alan Keyes.
We have this caution, though: Our CNN poll is one of several being reported today. Most of the others indicate the race between McCain and Bush is too close to call.
Joining us now is our CNN senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
Why the discrepancy in the polls?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they all show Bush ahead, but many of them show Bush ahead within the margin of error. Ours is a little above the margin of error. But all the polls are a little unreliable. Dare I say that about our own poll?
WATERS: Well, go ahead.
SCHNEIDER: Well, here's the reason: We don't know who's going to vote. We've never had an event like this in South Carolina before. There is a tumultuous campaign, a huge amount of interest, wall-to- wall advertising, accusations, allegations flying around the state. And Democrats and Republicans -- and Independents can go to this Republican primary and we don't know how many of them are actually going to vote.
WATERS: And that's the key.
SCHNEIDER: That is the key because this primary is an unusually polarized primary with partisan Republicans voting heavily for George Bush. But Democrats and Independents, who are allowed to vote in the primary and have no primary of their own, they are voting for John McCain. If enough of them vote, they could put McCain over, we just don't know.
WATERS: The polling in the final moments before New Hampshire: How is that different from the final polling in the final moments before South Carolina?
SCHNEIDER: Well, in New Hampshire there was an unusually heavy turnout of Independents who voted in actually both party primaries. They helped Bill Bradley, who almost beat Al Gore. But they helped John McCain big time in New Hampshire. Independents in the New Hampshire primary have never been more than 20 percent of the voters. This year, they were 32 percent of the Republican primary voters. It was an amazing turnout, and we just began to catch it in the last few hours before the polls opened. And we may see that in South Carolina.
WATERS: Are there that many Independents and Democrats in South Carolina that, even if they do turn out in great numbers, it'll make a vast difference the way the polls are showing Bush ahead right now?
WATERS: I mean, it could go either way, then, you're saying.
SCHNEIDER: It really could go either way, depending on that turnout figure. There are a lot of Democrats who are interested in the Republican primary. They're white Democrats. African American Democrats have not shown a lot of interest because they've already got a candidate: Al Gore. They see nothing to choose between John McCain and George Bush, both of who support flying the Confederate flag. But white Democrats, yes, a lot of them are interested. And, look, there's so much excitement they say, we want a little bit of this action.
WATERS: All right, Bill Schneider, get some rest.
WATERS: We'll be hearing from you all day tomorrow.
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