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Special Event

Gov. Bush: In Michigan, 'There was a Clear Effort by People to Hijack the Primary'

Aired February 23, 2000 - 2:10 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Want to take you now live to George W. Bush. He is about to take questions from reporters in Los Angeles.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... action. I was amazed last night to hear that my opponent is reaching out to Republicans. It's an amazing admission to make. Last night, I won the Republican vote in Michigan, I won the Republican vote in that big state. Last night, I won the Republican and Independent vote combined in that state. Last night, I lost the liberal Democrat vote of people who come into our primary to try to hijack the election, to hijack the primary to help Al Gore.

Our party needs somebody who can unite us all, a reformer who has gotten results. We came to this institution because I want you to know that the great hope of America lies in programs such as this, that when I become the president I will call upon the best of America to rally the armies of compassion. You heard the concern of two members of the panel who are concerned about Senator McCain's plan to raise taxes on those who give charitable gift, his plan to change the charitable giving. His plan says you can't deduct the market value. If you give, you have to pay the difference between the market value and your cost. This would be damaging to the armies of compassion.

It is -- it's something that I noticed last night: The rhetoric started talking about Ronald Reagan. It is not Reaganesque to discourage charitable giving. It's not Reaganesque to support a tax plan that is Clinton in nature. It's important for us to cut all the taxes on people while we encourage charitable giving, and that's what my plan does. It's not Reaganesque to support a 39.6-percent tax rate on people who pay the bills. It is not Reaganesque to stand by while the tax rate is the highest it's been on the working people since World War II.

I want to thank you for coming again. I'll be glad to answer some questions.

QUESTION: Governor, did you suffer a knockdown in Michigan last night?

BUSH: Glancing blow. This -- what Michigan really indicates is that March 7th is going to mean a lot for both of our candidacies, that the California primary is going to be what it is. It's going to be a really strong contest. I look forward to campaigning a lot in California. I look forward to the "Los Angeles Times" debate that I'm going to accept today. I look forward to being here as much as I can. It's going to be quite a few days. We counted up the number of cities I visited in California since I started campaigning here: It's been 18 different cities. And I look forward to coming back a lot. It's an important state, it's an important state in the primary -- hold on a second please -- it's an important state in the primary. It'll be a very important state in the general election.

Yes, ma'am?

QUESTION: Governor, your dad had the wimp factor to deal with. You've got this guy McCain with the alpha Democrat crossover vote going, perceived as the man with the message and muscle. How are you going to combat that?

BUSH: Win. I'm going to win the Republican nomination. I, yesterday, as I mentioned, overwhelmingly won the Republican vote, and when you combine the independent, Republican vote I did really well.

I've got a message that people in our party and independents are hearing. It is a compassion conservative message. I'm a person who has done in office what I said I would do. I'm a reformer. When I say we're going to reform welfare, I'm also going to rally the armies of compassion in my state. We've got a faith-based initiative that I've begun in the state of Texas that will help lift people's spirits and help save lives. I've got an education reform agenda, and in my state I can point to the fact that our test scores are up, particularly amongst African-American students and Latino students, because of the reforms I've put in place. No, I've got a record and that's what I'm going to continue campaigning on.

QUESTION: If McCain -- just a follow up...

BUSH: Sure.

QUESTION: ... If McCain is attracting the working-class Democrats, how are you going to go about getting the Latino Democrats to come over to you as you did in Texas?

BUSH: Yes, the same way I did in Texas. I'm going to talk about entrepreneurship, education. I'm the one candidate in this case who's got an education vision that people can relate to. I talk about education all the time because I know what I'm talking about. I clearly see a better tomorrow when it comes to educating our children. I've got a program that people can understand and I've proven it, and that's how I'm going to win.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) were voting yesterday in Michigan for your opponent were out there primarily to sabotage the Republican race?

BUSH: I think clearly some of them were, yes, I do, and I -- let me -- I'll just give you some anecdotal evidence, or some empirical evidence, not anecdotal. Kevorkian's lawyer, Doctor Kevorkian's lawyer -- help me with his -- Fieger? QUESTION: Fieger.

BUSH: Fieger runs radio ads. That's not a guess, that's a reality. He's on radio urging people to vote against Bush. The mayor of Detroit, a Gore ally, urged people to come out to the polls. The state representative, Lemon, I believe it was, who has made it clear that he was interested in sending a message to me and Governor Engler to vote against us. So I -- you know, I recognize some Democrats find John to be an attractive candidate, I understand that, but in this state there was a clear effort by people to hijack the primary.

Yes, Glen (ph).

QUESTION: Some of your supporters are questioning, A, your decision to spend so much money in Arizona; you only got 36 percent of the vote there. Some of them are also criticizing your decision to go to Bob Jones, saying that you have given Senator McCain an opening on this Catholic issue, going into some heavily-Catholic states. What do you say to those two criticisms?

BUSH: Let me address the Catholic issue. We've got a man who says one thing and does another. I'm running against a man who claims he's taken the -- riding his high horse but is taking that low road. This is a man who yesterday denied all day long that his campaign was running these anti-catholis (ph) -- anti -- they're calling me an anti-Catholic bigot. He was denying all day long. We got on the airplane last night, coming from Missouri to California, and lo and behold there is a truthful revelation that has taken place after the polls have closed, after you all had to put up your notebooks, after the cameras were off. They admitted that they were making those calls in that state. I don't accept that kind of campaigning, and I don't appreciate it one bit. Well...

ALLEN: George Bush saying he only lost the Democratic liberal vote in Michigan, reminding everyone that he won the Republican vote and saying that these Democrats voting the primary were people trying to hijack the primary to help Al Gore. And he said the next big battle will be March 7th. He says it's going to mean a lot.

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