Election 2000: John McCain Predicts Final Victory But Must Take it One Race at a TimeAired February 23, 2000 - 1:31 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: Looking way ahead to November, John McCain says he will beat Gore like a drum. That's making too big assumptions, of course, but CNN's Bruce Morton reports it doesn't seem as far-fetched today as it did yesterday.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Engler, Michigan's governor, said his state would be a firewall for George W. Bush. It wasn't. John McCain, who desperately needed a win after losing big in South Carolina, won, won small but he'll take it, and he won Arizona, of course, but he was supposed to do that.
Winning in Michigan means he can go on. Had he lost, a lot of people would have started saying, hey, it's over, why not stop. Now, he has put a second dent in George W. Bush's claim of: Vote for me, I'm a winner, I can beat the Democrats. And the contest may now focus on new questions: How damaged is Bush's aura as a winner, and how well can McCain play under the new rules he'll face in some of the primaries upcoming on March 7th?
So far, win or lose, in New Hampshire, South Carolina and now Michigan, John McCain has done better among independents than among those who identified themselves as Republicans. All three were open primaries. Now that changes. Of the states that vote on March 7th, Connecticut and New York hold closed primaries, only Republicans can vote, and that will pose a different challenge for McCain.
Will he respond by repeating that he's a proud conservative? His record says he is conservative, but polls say many don't believe it. Will he attack Bush as a captive of the Christian right, citing his appearance at South Carolina's Bob Jones University? A lot of ugliness surfaced here in Michigan, suggestions that Bush was somehow anti-Catholic, that McCain was soft on abortion when his position and Bush's are alike. Whatever happens next, this contest, the most interesting presidential battle in years, isn't over.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Southfield, Michigan.
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