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CNN Today

Michigan GOP Race Neck-and-Neck as Bush Pushes for High Republican Turnout

Aired February 22, 2000 - 2:01 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: Fast on the heels of South Carolina, today, two more states hold Republican presidential primaries, and the pressure shifts from George W. Bush to underdog John McCain. With votes being held in McCain's home state of Arizona and, perhaps more importantly, Michigan, McCain vows to stay in the race no matter today's results. But after his loss in Carolina, McCain's own aides begin to concede very quietly that today's must-win is a do or die situation for the Arizona senator.

We'll start with Michigan, a big, brawny industrial state, where polls suggest a very tight Republican race. CNN's Patty Davis joins us with more about that from Canton Township; that's west of Detroit.

Hello, Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Lou. George Bush and John McCain neck-and-neck here in the state of Michigan. The polls indicate, as you said, a statistical dead heat, and that's exactly why George W. Bush says he is campaigning here right down to the wire. Polls close tonight at 8:00 Eastern Time.

Now, Bush took part in a rally here in Canton Township just about an hour ago trying to turnout that vote for him. He's very popular among the rank and file Republicans -- that's who he's trying to reach -- get those people to the polls. He knows if he does that he could do pretty well here. He's counting on those core Republicans, even some crossover Independents to hand him a victory here in Michigan.

He reiterated his pledge in that rally for a big tax cut if he's elected president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've enjoyed the tax discussion here in the state of Michigan. I like taking my cause to the people. I particularly like it when I'm asked to say that the polls, the focus groups don't say the people want a tax cut. I like it when they tell me that I'm supposed to do something because of some poll. That's not how I've been the governor of Texas. That's not how I've made my decisions. I lay out what I...

(END VIDEO CLIP) DAVIS: Now, Bush has major support here in the state of Michigan from the establishment. The Republican governor, John Engler, is his chairman. He is doing everything he can to help Bush get a victory. A strong organization phone bank. The Bush campaign saying that they have made some 500,000 telephone calls between Thursday and today trying to get out those votes, working the telephones. Bush hoping that kind of clout and momentum from South Carolina will help him take this state -- Lou.

WATERS: Patty, those phone messages, as we've been hearing from both sides, are negative push poll kinds of telephone calls. We're hearing that from both sides. Is that different in this Michigan race than it was in South Carolina, where only the McCain campaign was accusing the other side of these push polls?

DAVIS: Well, there have been charges coming from both campaigns that this is happening on both sides. You know, both really had denied that they're doing it, and at this point, you know, the Bush campaign saying that they're not push polling and the McCain -- they are however, accusing the McCain campaign of doing that by calling around and saying that because George W. Bush went to Bob Jones University in South Carolina that in fact he is an anti-Catholic bigot. And Bush said today, earlier today here in Michigan, that he resents that deeply and he's not a bigot -- Lou.

WATERS: So these phone calls are going on but both sides are denying it...

DAVIS: Sounds that way.

WATERS: ... that they are having anything to do with it?

DAVIS: Sounds that way, yes.

WATERS: Patty Davis in Canton Township, west of Detroit, watching over the Michigan primary, we'll have results this evening.

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