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Special Event

Election 2000: George W. Bush Makes Clean Sweep Over John McCain Tuesday's Important GOP Primaries

Aired March 1, 2000 - 0:00 a.m. ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: For George W. Bush over John McCain, an important win for the Texas governor, a clean sweep. Earlier in the day, also winning in Virginia and North Dakota.

In Virginia, Bush coasted to a victory over John McCain. With 100 percent of the vote tally now in, 53 percent of the voters in the Republican primary in Virginia voted for Bush, 44 percent for John McCain, three percent for Alan Keyes.

Continuing in North Dakota where there were the caucuses this evening, a huge win for George W. Bush, 76 percent in the North Dakota Republican caucus, 19 percent for John McCain, three percent for Alan Keyes.

CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley has been covering the Bush campaign. She joins us now live with reaction, including from the candidate himself, from Duluth, Georgia. That's just outside Atlanta -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the last time we talked to you four hours ago, we were en route from Cincinnati. And en route from there to here in Duluth, we did have a chance to sit down and talk to the governor, who by then had only heard of his wins in Virginia and North Dakota.

I asked him what he thought the win in Virginia meant. He said that because of the huge turnout it shows that he can excite the race. He was also quite pleased that he polled very well among women and among other sub-groups. So he thinks it shows that he can win and pull the party together.

He also believes and told us that he thinks that McCain's speech on Monday in which he called Bush a Pat Robertson Republican, and McCain criticized heavily some members of the religious right, Bush thinks all of that may have backfired.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Virginia primary shows that I can energize our base. A lot of Republicans are excited about the candidacy. I've won overwhelmingly amongst women, over a 20-point victory amongst women. And a lot of the young people are coming into our primary. And I won amongst them because I have a positive message. I can talk about education. I can talk about economic growth. And I'm talking about keeping the peace with a strong military. And that's what people want to hear.

People know my heart. People know my record in Texas. People know I've been raised in a family of tolerance, and we're inclusive people.

And the outrageous attempt to call me an anti-Catholic bigot is going to backfire, and it's going to continue to backfire on it. People don't want that kind of politics.

CROWLEY (on camera): Let me switch subjects. I wanted to ask you about the shooting of the six-year-old...

BUSH: Yes. Yes.

CROWLEY: ... And I heard what you said back there. But you know, let us assume that the parents of the victim who are responsible parents, they just sent their little six-year-old girl to first grade that day.

BUSH: No, they were responsible parents. It's not the parents of the victim. I'm talking about the parents that somehow were so careless with a weapon that a six-year-old boy got a hold of it.

I mean, parents have got to be parents in society. My heart breaks for the family of the child who died. It's just needless death. And it's so sad. But parents have got to be responsible for that behavior.

CROWLEY: But in this world where guns are available, you can be a really responsible parent and still send your six-year-old to school apparently...

BUSH: With a gun? How can you say that?

CROWLEY: ... No, no, no, no, no. A fully responsible parent of the victim. I'm talking about...

BUSH: Well, of course. That's...

CROWLEY: ... And so then what is there for her? What is (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

BUSH: ... I understand. No, this is terrible. It's just total heartbreak. And I can't imagine what they're going through. It's just needless and senseless. I couldn't agree more with you.

But it's the parent -- the question is how did this young guy get a gun? What's wrong? I mean, how does that happen? That's what we need to know more about.

CROWLEY: Do you ever see yourself going for something like mandatory trigger locks?

BUSH: If I thought it would work. What I really hope happens is that technology is developed so that people can't shoot a weapon unless it's got a fingerprint imaging. In other words, there's got to be some kind of identification as a result of a particular handprint.

And I hope technology will make guns safer and we'll be able to eradicate this kind of senseless death that happens. But you know, trigger locks would be fine if somehow we could figure out how to enforce them. I would hope everybody would use trigger locks.

It's -- but when people say, are you for mandatory trigger locks, it sounds good. But how are we going to have the trigger lock police? Knock on a door, show me your trigger lock?

I mean, I would hope people would use them. Yes, and I would hope when people purchase a gun they would buy one with them. The question is how do we convince people to use them?

CROWLEY: The last question, is Bob Jones behind you?

BUSH: Oh, I -- Bob Jones is behind me the minute people give me a fair shake because they know my heart. They know I'm not an anti- Catholic bigot. I wish I'd spoken out sooner at the university. But you bet, people know who I am. And they know my record of being an inclusive person.

CROWLEY: Did you decide post-Michigan to speak out and say...

BUSH: No, I decided after (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I couldn't believe people were ascribing to me opinions I just don't hold. I thought people were more fair than that.

And so when I realized that this was a much stronger sentiment, or could be a stronger sentiment, than I possibly imagined, I decided to do something about it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Again, that was George Bush before he knew that the networks were projecting he would also win in Washington state, a trifecta for George Bush tonight, one he badly needed and which certainly this campaign hopes will make him in a very good position to win in Super Tuesday, next Tuesday of course.

And that's why we're in Georgia. Tomorrow, Bush begins again. Georgia, of course, one of those states that will hold a primary next Tuesday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley reporting from Duluth, Georgia. Thanks for joining us.

John McCain also has been crisscrossing the country trying to gain some momentum. He's now in the state with the largest number of delegates, California. Our senior White House correspondent John King has been following him. He joins us now live from Riverside, California -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Senator McCain had expected to lose Virginia. And he called Governor Bush a long time ago earlier this evening to congratulate him on his victory there.

However, the setback in Washington state a major setback for the McCain campaign. The senator had hoped to get a win there to give him a share of the momentum heading into next Tuesday's contest. Thirteen states vote in the Republican race a week from today. Senator McCain now desperately in need of some victories. His key strategy, trying to engineer a come-from-behind victory here in California.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

J. KING (voice-over): John McCain is already thinking about next Tuesday, a defining day in the roller coaster Republican race.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One week from toady, and we're going to carry this state. One week from this evening, we're going to be celebrating one of the greatest victories in American political history, my friends.

J. KING: Polls show George W. Bush with a comfortable lead here among Republicans over McCain for the GOP support with a clear sense of urgency.

MCCAIN: My friends, I have a clear record of being a fiscal conservative.

J. KING: In an abrupt strategyship, McCain agreed to take part in a CNN/"Los Angeles Times" debate Thursday night. The senator's major California supporters had complained his decision to bypass the debate could leave the impression he was giving up on California.

The Arizona senator's pitch includes reminding restless California Republicans that Bill Clinton carried their state twice, and that recent polls show he is the strongest Republican for the general election.

MCCAIN: I'm the one that independents and Democrats are coming over to. I'm the one that can beat Al Gore this fall. I'm the one who has the vision. I'm the one who has the reform. I'm the one that has the positive campaign.

J. KING: California is by far the biggest prize of the 13 states with Republican contests next Tuesday.

All registered voters can participate in the open primary here. And McCain continues to aggressively court Democrats and independents. But the Republican Party will count only votes from registered Republicans in allocating the state's 162 GOP convention delegates, so campaign aides say it's possible McCain could win the popular vote in California but get no delegates to show for it.

(END VIDEOTAPE) J. KING: Now momentum in the Republican race has been swinging back and fourth week by week. It was clearly McCain's last week after his victories in Arizona and Michigan. Now of course, it is back in the hands of Governor Bush after his three wins tonight, clearly raising the stakes for Senator McCain next week when some 600 delegates are at stake. That's 60 percent of what it takes to capture the Republican nomination -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John, a lot of Republican insiders are scratching their heads wondering why if John McCain needs that Republican base why he went after Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson on the eve of the Virginia primary. What are McCain's aides telling you on that strategy, that criticism decision yesterday to attack elements, members of the Christian Coalition?

J. KING: They say they did so fully expecting to lose Virginia, which of course is the home base of both Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. What they were hoping to do is try to convince Christian conservative rank-and-files that the leaders of the organizations like the Christian Coalition had abandoned the everyday social conservatives.

They say that there will be a very difficult challenge for John McCain. And on the other hand, and this they acknowledge is a very delicate tightrope they're walking. They're trying to appeal to the more socially moderate voters. There are many of those here in California, also in Ohio, and in New York.

Those are the three biggest prizes next Tuesday. Senator McCain desperately needs wins next Tuesday. So he is trying to secure his support in the northeast and with moderates here in California.

But again, he does know that he will need to get more Republican support as the calendar moves on. So a very delicate tightrope the senator is walking. And he himself acknowledging it is a risky strategy to attack the leaders of the Christian right -- Wolf.

BLITZER: OK, John King reporting live from Riverside, California, where he's covering the McCain campaign.

Joining us now is our senior political analyst Bill Schneider. He's been studying all evening the exit polls from Virginia as well as the other contests.

Bill, what's your take after looking at all these numbers so far?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, the religious right delivered big time for Bush in Virginia after McCain's attack on Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. McCain may have been hoping to make gains among non-religious right voters. But that didn't happen, at least not in Virginia. We'll see next week whether he does any better in New York and California.

In primary after primary, including Virginia, McCain has lost Republicans to Bush by better than two to one. In Virginia today, over 60 percent of the voters were Republicans, a little higher than in South Carolina, a lot higher than in Michigan.

When 60 percent or more of the voters are Republicans, McCain can't win. That's going to be a problem for McCain in more and more states starting next week where many primaries are open only to registered Republicans. McCain simply can't get the Republican nomination if rank-and-file Republicans continue to say, over our dead bodies, which is exactly what they have been saying in state after state -- Wolf.

BLITZER: OK, Bill, stand by. I want to bring Jeff Greenfield, our senior analyst, into this conversation as well.

Jeff, a clean sweep for George W. Bush tonight against John McCain. Huge momentum supposedly. Maybe not. What do you say?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: I am very skeptical about momentum in general, and particularly this year when every win has been followed by a loss. While Bill Schneider is right that you can't win a Republican nomination without Republican votes, this is why he's so respected as a keen analyst, I'm not sure that the Republican voters in New York and California are going to particularly reflect the Republican voters in Virginia in South Carolina.

One of the things I think we're seeing this year is kind of a throwback to primary elections where candidates, kind of like fighters, would exchange rounds. We're so used to campaigns where a guy wins New Hampshire and then rolls to the nomination in the last few that we forget Reagan-Ford, in '76 Carter-Kennedy, in '80 Mondale and Hart.

So this whole notion of momentum I think is going to be put to a test in a week. And I must confess some skepticism. Look, clearly John McCain wanted to win Washington state. There's no way they can make that look great. But next Tuesday so dwarfs everything that's come before it that we're going to just have to see what happens then.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider, as you're looking ahead to Super Tuesday next Tuesday, the Republican voters are going to be much more important than the Democrats and the independents were given the nature of the closed contest in so many of those races.

SCHNEIDER: Well, that's right. And it's important that Bush won the Republican vote in Washington state because that's a state outside the South. And McCain's effort to say, well, Bush is a southern regional candidate because he won just South Carolina and Virginia, winning Washington was very important for Bush today.

And look, there's been one consistency throughout these primaries -- South Carolina, Delaware, Virginia, Michigan, Washington state. In every one of those states, Bush has wiped out McCain among rank-and- file partisan Republicans.

They haven't dominated every single contest. They didn't in Michigan. But they are absolutely crucial. And in more and more states that are closed only to registered Republicans, those voters are going to become crucial. BLITZER: All right, Jeff Greenfield, we've been focusing most of our attention on the Republican contest. But there was an important Democratic contest in Washington state this evening as well. All day, in fact, CNN is projecting that Al Gore is the winner. He defeats the former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley. Bill Bradley had spent several days, six days non-stop in Washington state trying to capture that vote, did not succeed.

As you look at this big win for Al Gore, Jeff Greenfield, what does it say to you?

GREENFIELD: It says that if you listen carefully, you can hear the sound of New York Democrats who were for Bradley tearing their hair out. There was a lot of skepticism expressed within the Bradley camp, why is the senator, who so needs New York -- it was his a few months ago. He played basketball for several years in New York. He came from New Jersey. Why did he go out to Washington state for all those days? And the answer was we have to win something before Super Tuesday to show that we're still alive and encourage our voters to come out March 7. That strategy has failed.

You know, you just always want to be careful before you look down the road and say a campaign is over. But if there is anything -- if there is a rabbit to be pulled out of the hat tomorrow at this Bradley-Gore debate that will be on CNN, if I may get in a plug, if there is ever a time when he needs some kind of dramatic statement to reshape this campaign, that's it. And if you ask me what it could be, I must confess to you at this point, I don't have a clue.

BLITZER: OK, Jeff Greenfield and Bill Schneider, always good to have you. Thanks so much for joining us.

Much more ahead in our Election 2000 special. When we come back, we'll be joined by key supporters for John McCain and George W. Bush in the critical state of California. And later, supporters for both in New York.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our Election 2000 special.

In Washington state, there were actually three separate kinds of voting capabilities for the people there. There was a Democratic primary, Al Gore defeating former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley, a Republican-only primary, George W. Bush defeating John McCain.

There was also what they've called an unaffiliated primary. In that unaffiliated primary where anyone could vote, largely a beauty contest, the final results showed John McCain actually winning that with 40 percent of the vote to George W. Bush's 23 percent of the vote, a beauty contest with no impact on the actual ability of delegates to be mustered as a result of that.

With 162 Republican delegates at stake next Tuesday, California is the big prize in the Super Tuesday contest. Both George Bush and John McCain are planning to spend significant time and money in the week ahead to try to capture California.

The primary is open. But the winner-take-all formula is driven by the outcome of just Republican voters. So Democratic and independent crossover votes that Mr. McCain has relied on so heavily in his win so far will be little more than symbolic when the votes are tallied in a week.

To size up the campaign out west, partisans from both campaigns. Joining us now from San Diego, that city's mayor and a John McCain backer, Susan Golding. Here in Washington from the Bush campaign, Congressman David Dreier. He's also a Republican of California.

Welcome, both of you, to our special Election 2000 coverage.

REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: Morning, Wolf.

MAYOR SUSAN GOLDING, SAN DIEGO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you so much.

And Susan Golding, you must be disappointed in the clean sweep for George Bush this evening.

GOLDING: Oh, I think winning is always preferable to losing. But George Bush had to win something. He, after all, has been viewed as the frontrunner for some period of time.

I don't think we ever expected to win Virginia, or for that matter North Dakota. I think we were hoping to do better in Washington state, however.

But you know, every state has been really different. And this is truly a competitive race.

Where Californians are concerned, and because Super Tuesday is the big enchilada that's coming up, I think Republicans have to remember that if California wants to beat Al Gore that the right candidate to do that with is John McCain because Bush is trailing Al Gore right now.

BLITZER: What do you say about that, Congressman Dreier, and this is the line that McCain and his supporters have been making, he is best qualified to beat Al Gore in November, not George W. Bush?

DREIER: Wolf, there is no Republican in the nation who has done more to reach out to women, Hispanics, Asians, African Americans, and independents and Democrats than George W. Bush. He won -- he's the only person to ever win reelection in the state of Texas as governor. And he did so with nearly 70 percent of the vote, 49 percent of the Hispanic vote. That's the thing that played a role in drawing virtually the entire California congressional delegation to support him very early on.

And I will tell you that we are very gratified by this extraordinarily strong tonight, as Candy called it, a trifecta winning both Washington state, North Dakota, and here in Virginia. And I think that it bodes well for next Tuesday.

But my friend Susan Golding is absolutely right. Next Tuesday is going to be key. And Jeff Greenfield said the same thing. It's going to be key. And I believe that with the 20-point that we now enjoy in California that George Bush's message of inclusion which is reaching out to everyone rather than being a divider -- he's a uniter, not a divider. And I think, Wolf, that is going to be -- we're going to see the victory next Tuesday in California as evidence of that.

GOLDING: Let me...

BLITZER: Susan...

GOLDING: ... Let me just add something. The person that we need to win in November is the person that can attract everyone to the party. David is a friend of mine. On this point, we disagree.

When George W. Bush first started running, the big message in California was, well, this is the person we're going to back because he can attract independents, he can attract Democrats. And in fact, it's been John McCain as a conservative Republican who has been able to do that.

I mean, it showed -- he was very strong among independents in Washington state. I think it's almost two to one. And he's clearly 20 points or so ahead of Al Gore while George Bush nationally is at a statistical dead heat. I mean, you could run the risk of yes, nominating someone and watching him lose to Al Gore in November...

DREIER: But the difference here is that...

GOLDING: ... And then you have to ask yourself what you're doing.

DREIER: ... Wolf, the difference here is that we have been focusing on winning Republicans. I happen to believe that Republicans should choose the nominee of the Republican Party. Democrats should choose their party nominee.

But when it comes to beyond the nomination, George Bush is going to once again very clearly be the person who will reach out to Democrats and Hispanics and independents and all as he has done so effectively as the governor of Texas.

So I don't buy this argument that somehow John McCain is better equipped to reach out and draw the support of independents and Democrats...

GOLDING: Well, I, I, well...

DREIER: ... We're campaigning for Republicans right now. And then we'll be extending that outreach...

GOLDING: ... I, I, I don't... DREIER: ... And George Bush has also done more in California...

GOLDING: ... I don't think David will ever buy that.

DREIER: ... Last week, we did an event at Univision which went extremely well there. And Governor Bush last September unveiled his national education plan before the Latino Business Alliance. And it was received overwhelmingly by both Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

BLITZER: All right, Mayor Golding, go ahead. I know you want to respond to that.

GOLDING: Well, I don't expect David to -- since he's a backer of Bush in this particular campaign, to say that Bush is doing anything but focusing on Republicans. My point is that it used to be a different story.

And so now the Bush people are criticizing John McCain because he gets support, not that he's focusing on it. John McCain is focusing on Republicans. He's a conservative Republican. He reaches out to everyone. He's talking about Hispanics. He's represented a state that has heavy Hispanic vote. He's always carried it. Just this last year, he won two national awards from La Raza and several national Hispanic organizations.

He comes from the state right next to California. Nobody knows the Hispanic community better than John McCain or is better regarded. So that's utter nonsense.

What's been even sillier is both of these men are good men. They're both conservative Republicans. But the important thing is they're going to campaign for Republicans during a Republican Primary. It would be nonsense to do anything else.

But what happens after that? What happens after that, if you look at the polls, is George Bush loses and John McCain wins.

DREIER: And you see...

BLITZER: David...

DREIER: ... what's happening now is that the Republicans are in fact supporting George Bush because he's been uniting rather than dividing by religion and getting out there and attacking other Republicans, which George Bush won't have a part of and this campaign won't have a part of.

But you're right, Susan, when you say that both are good men. I have the highest regard for John McCain. And I think that he's going to be a very strong supporter of the George Bush ticket.

BLITZER: Mayor Golding...

GOLDING: Yes. BLITZER: ... a lot of people say that when John McCain went after Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell in Virginia, he wasn't really looking for votes in Virginia. He was conceding he probably was not going to win Virginia. But he was looking for votes elsewhere, especially in California. That controversial decision, a bold decision, to go and attack Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, how is that playing among your fellow Republicans in California?

GOLDING: When the message gets there, it plays extremely well because what John McCain's message has been is that intolerance is not acceptable. It's not acceptable in politics. It's not acceptable in religion.

John McCain has been a person that has fought for this country, almost died for this country. And he feels very strongly about everyone being included. I mean, his life has practiced that.

So that message was not about, as people in the Bush campaign has said. John McCain has had strong support from the Christian Coalition, from the members of the Christian Coalition. What he attacked was some of the leadership that appeared to care more about money and more about their own power base than the average person who shares the same belief as John McCain. And...

DREIER: The difference here is that George Bush believes we should even be tolerant of religious leaders. So the fact of the matter is we want to extend that tolerance...

GOLDING: As long as they're his supporters.

DREIER: ... And George Bush has done it extraordinarily well. And we don't want to be divisive. And I consider myself to be a libertarian Republican. And I disagree with some of those religious leaders on some issues. But I do believe they can clearly be part of this coalition. And that's why George Bush is going to continue to reach out and let anyone who shares our core Republican goals, independents, Democrats, and all Republicans to come with us.

GOLDING: Well, I...

BLITZER: Well, Congressman David Dreier and Mayor Susan Golding, unfortunately, we're all out of time for this segment.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I want to thank both of you for joining us. Next Tuesday in California, the whole world will be watching.

DREIER: Look forward to it.

GOLDING: Thank you.

BLITZER: I'm sure no one will be watching more closely than the two of you. Thanks once again.

GOLDING: That's for sure. BLITZER: And still ahead, a look at New York's primary next Tuesday. We'll be joined by two important New York congressmen. They too have very different points of view. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: With its 101 delegates at stake, New York is significant next Tuesday not just because of the geographical distance from California, but the politics of the state as well. They differ very much.

The conservative moderate mix of New York's GOP electorate might provide an opportunity for John McCain. But the majority of the state's establishment Republicans have lined up solidly behind the Texas Governor.

For a perspective on the Empire State and its GOP primary next week, I'm joined by two congressmen, both Republicans from New York. Representative Tom Reynolds, he's backing George Bush. And Representative Peter King, he's switched from supporting George Bush. He's now backing John McCain.

Congressmen, welcome to our Election 2000 special.

You must be very disappointed, Peter King. You thought that John McCain would win Washington state.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: We hoped he would. And I want to congratulate Governor Bush. He won three of them today. He's entitled to credit for it. And it doesn't make any sense to say otherwise.

I do think it's important to note that Senator McCain did win in the alternative primary, which again shows his strength among independents. And I think that as Jeff Greenfield said, though, if this campaign has shown anything it's that there is no sense of momentum. So I would say the big enchilada is next week. The big states next week are going to decide it.

BLITZER: Congressman Reynolds.

REP. THOMAS REYNOLDS (R), NEW YORK: Well, George Bush keeps collecting the delegates, not only this past weekend, but 113 tonight. And I think I disagree with the McCain spin. I think that McCain did look close to having northern Virginia and along the beaches of Virginia to respond to his message yesterday. And they clearly defied that and gave a very strong win to George Bush.

And I think he's got great momentum, certainly in Virginia, but also in the northwest. And I look forward to this race next week in New York. And overwhelming support from the Republican leadership in our state. And I think Bush is going to do very well in New York.

BLITZER: Republicans are going to be voting in New York state. They may be more moderate Republicans. They may be less conservative let's say than some of the southern states. But they're still Republicans. And so far, John McCain has had trouble capturing Republican support.

P. KING: He's done well in the northeast. For instance, in New Hampshire, he did capture the majority of Republican votes. He beat Bush among Republicans in New Hampshire.

The polling so far in New York shows me they're ahead, or basically even with Bush. I'm confident right now if the election were held today in New York, Senator McCain would win.

A week is a long time. Certainly in the downstate area, New York City, he's running very strong. The big bosses like Tom Reynolds upstate of course are working hard for Governor Bush. But I would say that he's doing exceptionally well in New York. And again, the main reason is that right now people look upon Senator McCain as the one Republican who has the best chance to defeat Al Gore.

BLITZER: Congressman...

REYNOLDS: Wolf...

BLITZER: ... Reynolds, let me ask you this though. We don't have a lot of time. Do you think your fellow Republicans in New York state appreciated what John McCain did in Virginia Beach yesterday going after Pat Robertson?

REYNOLDS: I think they just look at it as divisive. John McCain fell down to below 30 percent tonight as he did in South Carolina. And the only time he had over 38 percent was New Hampshire.

I think that McCain will have real difficulty capturing Republican spirit. Remember, in New York you vote for the delegate, not for the candidate. So when you go in there, you're going to see congressmen, state senators, county executives and county officials that are running as delegates. And below it, a message of supporting McCain or supporting Bush. So I really feel very strong about the Bill Powers (ph) state chairman, organization that is coming forward next Tuesday to carry New York for Bush.

BLITZER: Now Congressman King, you do have the whole weight of the establishment, including Governor Pataki, against you in New York state.

P. KING: Senator McCain has the people. And if there's anyone who New York Republicans look on as being divisive, it's not Senator McCain. It's people like Pat Robertson, people like Jerry Falwell. They do not sell well in New York.

That sense of intolerance that they generate turns off people. We've lost elections in New York because of this national influence of people like Robertson and Falwell. I think it's a big plus for McCain that he stood up for them. It's liberating the party from the stranglehold of people such as Robertson and Falwell.

BLITZER: Do you concede, Congressman Reynolds -- we only have a few seconds left -- that John McCain could more easily defeat Al Gore in November than George W. Bush? REYNOLDS: No, I think Bush is going to come to New York, carry a message like he has as a record in taxes. And that is cutting taxes, looking at an education message, and creating jobs. And I think that's what New Yorkers want to hear.

BLITZER: OK, Congressman Tom Reynolds, Congressman Pete King, Peter King, both of you, thanks for joining us from my home state of New York, including my hometown of Buffalo, New York. Always good to have both of you on our special.

That's all the time we have for this Election 2000 special. I'll be back at the top of the hour, 1:00 a.m. Eastern on NEWSSTAND with an update on the races tonight. Stay with CNN for complete coverage of the presidential race as it moves toward the Super Tuesday primaries March 7.

And these programming notes, Wednesday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, Democratic candidates Al Gore and Bill Bradley will participate in CNN/"Los Angeles Times" debate moderated by Bernard Shaw. Thursday night, also at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, the Republican candidates. Judy Woodruff will moderate that debate. And of course, you can always catch up on Election 2000 by going to our Web page CNN.com/election2000.

For now, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. For all of us here at CNN, good night. Stay tuned for an abbreviated edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

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