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Special Event

A Super Tuesday Sweep for Vice President Al Gore; For George W. Bush, A Crushing Set of Victories

Aired March 8, 2000 - 0:00 a.m. ET

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

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: A Super Tuesday sweep for Vice President Al Gore.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: For George W. Bush, no sweep, but still a crushing set of victories.

ANNOUNCER: From CNN election headquarters in Atlanta, this is CNN's coverage of Super Tuesday, the largest day of primary and caucus voting in the nation's history with 16 states and one territory going to the polls in caucuses to select more than 1,900 Democratic and Republican convention delegates. Now from the CNN anchor desk, here are Bernard Shaw, Judy Woodruff, and Jeff Greenfield.

SHAW: Welcome back to our coverage. Now we want to take a look at one major part of the California puzzle.

In the California nonpartisan primary votes, this is the way it looks. This is the latest information we have. Vice President Gore, 33 percent. Governor Bush has got 30 percent. And Senator McCain has 25 percent.

This is the beauty contest. We're not able to make a call because of some large number of absentee votes that may be counted tomorrow.

So far, Governor Bush has won these states, look at them. California, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio. Senator John McCain this Super Tuesday night, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont.

And quite a sweep for Vice President Al Gore. From California to New York, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont.

WOODRUFF: And Bernie, what we want to point out in those last few boards that we were looking at is that we have some new numbers. There were not only primaries held today across the United States but caucuses held in several states, five states plus the American territory of American Samoa.

But the numbers we have right now, Minnesota a win for George Bush. It was just a Republican caucus there. And in the states of Idaho and North Dakota, there were Democratic caucuses. In both instances, Al Gore was the winner. And you saw those results reflected in the boards that Bernie was just reading.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And what's interesting about that is it marks a kind of historical footnote. Al Gore becomes the first non-incumbent of either party ever to win every contest for delegates that there was in his party's nomination procedure. Nobody has ever done that on the way to the nomination other than incumbent presidents who were unopposed.

WOODRUFF: And no wins tonight for Bill Bradley.

SHAW: None, but he's winning delegates. One other thing in the caucuses, though, still outstanding caucuses in Hawaii, caucuses in Washington state, Democrat and Republican, and of course American Samoa with a caucus.

And of course, what we don't report on tonight, our overnight staff and certainly CNN in the morning will have everything.

GREENFIELD: I plan to go to Hawaii myself and dig in tomorrow to find out just who'll win those caucuses.

WOODRUFF: That was my line.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: That was my line. All right, is it Candy Crowley that we are going to now?

SHAW: Yeah, we're going to go to Candy Crowley.

WOODRUFF: It is Candy Crowley, thank you, who has been covering George Bush so diligently these last few weeks.

Candy, bring us up to date on what's going on there in Austin, Texas.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the public party is over. But I'm assuming that privately the celebration continues.

You know, from Maine to New York to California, or as Bush told a crowd here in Austin, "from sea to shining sea," it was hard to take the super out of Super Tuesday for George Bush.

And the icing on the cake of course was that he did get to celebrate it in front of a hometown crowd here in Austin, the capital of Texas. As for Bush at the moment, he needs to wait for John McCain to see what the next step is. But in between the lines, there is no doubt that the general campaign is on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will remind Al Gore that Americans do not want a White House where there is no controlling legal authority.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: I will repair the broken bonds of trust between Americans and their government. These are some of the issues I will raise during this campaign.

We need to put behind us eight years of nightly polls and daily attacks, eight years of partisanship, gridlock, and division. Eight years is a long time. And eight years is long enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Clearly a general election speech. It was short, but Bush laid out what is clearly an agenda for how he will take on Al Gore. He will question why after eight years of prosperity and a lot of willing people there has been no reform of Social Security.

He will take Al Gore head-on on the education issue. And he will talk about military defense and the need to restructure the military and to rebuild it.

So a very clear agenda for George Bush. But of course, he cannot publicly say that the general campaign is on. What the Bush campaign wants to do is wait and see what John McCain has in mind.

Back to you at the anchor desk.

WOODRUFF: All right, Candy. And that is a perfect segue for us to move to Los Angeles, California, where our own John King has been covering the John McCain campaign.

John King, John McCain won four contests out of the 10 tonight. But you look deeper into those results and it hasn't been a great night for the senator.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, a very difficult night for John McCain a very disappointing night. One top adviser went as far as to call it a devastating night because when you take a look at the delegate math, Governor Bush on his way to an overwhelming victory night in terms of the delegates.

In his remarks a short time ago here to supporters in Los Angeles, Senator McCain said he wanted to take a few days to reassess the fate of his campaign. But he did make clear in his speech that regardless of whether he stays in the race, the Republican Party has not heard the last of John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our crusade continues tonight, tomorrow, the next day, the day after that, and for as long as it takes to restore America's confidence and pride in the practice and institutions of our great democracy.

(APPLAUSE) MCCAIN: We will never give up this mission, my friends. I give you my word on that, for that's the great purpose of public service. And we must never, never lose sight of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now as Senator McCain goes home in the morning to Arizona to reassess his candidacy, aides say obviously this a very disappointing night. The senator said he had hoped to sweep the five New England states. He did not.

He had described New York as a must win. He lost. He also hoped to win a symbolic victory here in California by even though he lost the Republican delegates to George W. Bush hoping to outpace the governor in the popular vote here in California. Early projections show he's running behind.

So Senator McCain will wake up tomorrow, head home to Arizona. Some aides saying they want him to fight on, one however saying tonight it will be very difficult to build a rationale for staying in the race.

GREENFIELD: John, in a case like this where a campaign is looking into an abyss, have you heard any sense of any kind of recriminations, any second guessing? "We should have emphasized California, we never should have done that truth twisting ad?" Are you getting any sense that there's a sense of "we could have done it, if only we'd made a couple of different decisions"?

KING: Certainly discussion within the campaign about that. Many aides now think it was a mistake to run that ad in South Carolina comparing Governor Bush to President Clinton when it comes to telling the truth, not so much because they didn't like the ad, but it ended up involving Senator McCain in a daily war of tactics with Governor Bush and took him off his reform message.

After Michigan and Arizona victories, many thought Senator McCain could win here in California. There's some in fighting, or at least some disagreements within the staff over his tactical campaign here in of course the nation's biggest state.

But Senator McCain himself said he likes his team of advisers. Earlier in the week, he said that one of the problems with his campaign was that it didn't have the most brilliant candidate. The senator has set the tone for this campaign.

He has said all along it was a long shot. He has said all along he's having fun. And he said tonight that even as he reassesses what to do next that he certainly will keep up his message that the Republican Party needs to change itself if it hopes to win in the general election.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King with the McCain campaign. I know one question I have, and perhaps we'll get a chance to put it to him later, on whether there's any second guessing on the decision to single out and go after so forcefully Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as the leaders of the Christian right.

We're going to take a break. And then we're going to look at how ads played out in the state of California. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: You know, in campaigning there's that phrase we all know you know called retail politics. You can campaign up close and personal in Iowa and New Hampshire. But you cannot do that in California. It's this medium, television, which is king.

Let's check in with Wolf Blitzer to see how the ads played out in California. Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Bernie.

Very important state, 162 Republican delegates. First of all, let's take a look at where we stand right now, CNN's estimates as far as the delegates are concerned.

On the Democratic side, we now estimate that Al Gore has 1,306 of the 2,170 needed for the nomination, Bill Bradley with only 386 delegates. On the Republican side, George W. Bush with that California treasure, 660 delegates to John McCain's 210, 1,034 needed for that nomination.

David Peeler, you've been looking at how some of the candidates have been spending their money in California, specifically the Bush campaign. What did you see?

DAVID PEELER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Well, it's as Bernie suggested, Wolf. California is a very large state. It's a very, very expensive media market with San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego. We saw George W. Bush spend over $2.6 million in the last two weeks alone.

We also saw John McCain spend heavily, $1.9 million, almost $2 million in the last two weeks. I think that if there's something to learn out of this night, what we see is that George W. Bush kind of stayed to his tactics.

He said early on in the process that he was going to run a national campaign. He did that. Even during the darkest days, he went out into the states that were coming up and spent money in advance of John McCain.

And John McCain had a different tactic. His tactics were to kind of pick off individual states. Remember, he skipped Iowa and went to New Hampshire. He then made a big stand in South Carolina. He then went on to spend heavily in five states for Super Tuesday.

So they were different tactics. But at the end of the day, it seems that the one that stayed the course and didn't get involved in the tactics seems to have come out the winner today.

BLITZER: All right, on the Democratic side, Bill Bradley did not have a money problem. He spent a lot of money on advertising in New England and elsewhere. Yet that was obviously not translated into votes.

PEELER: Well, that's the interesting story here. We saw it in California. Bill Bradley spent more money than Al Gore, $3.3 million versus Gore's $2.9 million.

But I think the real important point here is that in every race tonight, Al Gore outspent -- was outspent by Bill Bradley. He was outspent in some states by as much as three to one.

So I think the message to learn from this is that it's not necessarily the money. It's the message. Remember that Al Gore attacked Bill Bradley early on in the process. And Bill Bradley did not respond quickly with an ad campaign. He tended to want to stay a very positive campaign. And I think it cost him in this case.

BLITZER: All right, Dwight Morris in Washington, you look at the money trail, how the candidates raise the money, how they spend the money. What are these two candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush now, assuming they get the nominations, what do they do in terms of raising the money they need to get them through the conventions in August?

DWIGHT MORRIS, CNN CAMPAIGN FINANCIAL ANALYST: Well, there are at least three things. First, almost immediately both are going to begin to transfer some of their 200 staffers to the DNC and the Republican National Committee payrolls. It's a standard practice. It will happen again.

Second, the issue advocacy groups will come out of the woodwork. On the Republican side, it will be the National Rifle Association and the anti-abortion groups. On the Democratic side, it will be the labor unions. And they will carry a lot of the heavy lifting for slamming the opponents.

And finally, when it comes right down to it, Governor Bush can go out and raise more money if he decides he wants to. It's a dangerous tactic because he can be tarred as anti-campaign finance reform. But he has the ability since he isn't living under the rules of matching funds.

BLITZER: That gives him a huge advantage over Al Gore between now and August. He can go out and raise X amount of millions of dollars.

MORRIS: Yes he can. The good news for the vice president is that his battle with former Senator Bradley did not really materialize into much of anything. He has clamped down on his spending tremendously over the last six months, at one point hemorrhaging money, got very frugal, and is going to actually end up with money in the bank when the process is over.

BLITZER: How much money do you think he could realistically raise right now, George W. Bush?

MORRIS: Now that he is the nominee, I think he has already demonstrated that the sky is the limit. The question is how much does he want to raise? People have suggested that they have a new target of $10 million to $20 million. I don't know if they're going to exercise that. There are lots of other options for paying for a lot of the campaign.

BLITZER: OK, Dwight Morris, David Peeler, we'll be back to you later as this night continues.

Now back to the anchor desk.

SHAW: Thanks, Wolf. Our eyes are still on California. When we come back, we're going to interview the Governor Gray Davis. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: From a noisy room in California, we welcome to our coverage Governor Gray Davis.

Governor, we're very curious about the nonpartisan vote. Can you tell us how you think that is going to break out given the closeness and the fact that there are absentee ballots that won't be counted perhaps until tomorrow. How do you think that's going to break out?

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, usually the absentee ballots break pretty much the way the normal ballots vote. And I think Al Gore will end up the winner of the open primary, and George Bush will be a close second.

GREENFIELD: Governor, it's Jeff Greenfield. How are you doing?

DAVIS: Fine, Jeff. How are you?

GREENFIELD: If you heard Governor Bush's victory speech tonight, it almost sounded like it was designed for California, praising legal immigration, talking about education for those left behind. Clearly a message going back to his inclusive days. As you look at George Bush, doesn't he look like a more formidable candidate for California than say his father was or Bob Dole was?

DAVIS: Well, he deserves credit for making education a priority in Texas. But in a good economy when crime is down, the three issues that are really decisive for Californians are a woman's right to choose, sensible gun control, and a strong environmental record. And unfortunately, he's on the wrong side of all three of those issues.

WOODRUFF: Governor, it's Judy Woodruff, and I have a question as well. I hope you can hear us all. Still on the subject of what Governor Bush had to say tonight, he said among other things, "We don't need a White House where there is no controlling legal authority," clearly taking an early shot at the whole question of the vice president's issue of campaign finance abuses back in 1996.

How do the Democrats, how does the vice president counter this in the general election?

DAVIS: Well, Judy, as you know, all candidates, myself included, have shortcomings. But what America really wants to know is what is your vision, are you reliable, and are you in sync with issues that matter to them? And I predict that in 2000, just as it was in my race, the cutting issues in California will be a woman's right to choose, gun control, and the environment.

Al Gore is on the right side of those issues. And George Bush has a lot of explaining to do on those issues.

SHAW: Which do you think will be the critical issue of the three you just mentioned, governor?

DAVIS: Bernie, I'm sorry. There was a lot of static. Could you repeat that?

SHAW: Of course. Which of the three issues you just ticked off will be critical, most critical?

DAVIS: Well, I think they're all critical. As I say, George Bush deserves credit for making education a priority. But he also signed legislation allowing you to carry a weapon into a church or a synagogue. I don't think that's what Democrats or Republicans in California want to see happen.

A woman's right to choose is always important. The next president will make three or maybe four appointments to the Supreme Court. So the fact that he's not for a woman's right to choose I think will affect a lot of voters.

And in California, as you know, we have a consensus. Dimachin (ph) and Wilson were opposed to offshore oil drilling off the coast of California. And Al Gore takes that position as to why. So I think California is an uphill battle for George Bush.

GREENFIELD: Governor Davis, it's funny though that Ronald Reagan carried California by landslides and George Bush carried it in 1998, not for a woman's right to choose, not your position on gun control, and with a record on the environments Democrats attacked. So clearly, Republicans can win California even if they're not on your side of those issues.

DAVIS: But Jeff, we have something else going with the vice president. It's called the best economy known to man, record reductions in unemployment, crime and welfare. And Californians ultimately like all Americans vote their pocketbooks.

We were in a recession just five years ago. And now we're creating one out of five jobs in America. So I think the vice president has a big record, a big edge, in terms of his participation in the comeback of our economy.

WOODRUFF: Governor, it's clear, you just said you give Governor Bush some credit for focusing on education. I'm surprised that you don't include education as one of the main issues...

DAVIS: Education...

WOODRUFF: ... go ahead. DAVIS: ... Education is a very important issue. But because Bush has focused on it, and because Al Gore is making revolutionary change a priority, I'm sort of considering that a wash. Maybe I shouldn't. That leaves those three issues that I'm talking about plus the vice president's participation in decisions that have lifted the promise and economic opportunity of every Californian.

SHAW: Governor Davis, last quick question to you. Hot button issue, immigration. What were you feeling, thinking, and how do you parse this politically? At one point tonight, Governor Bush said, "Illegal immigration is not a source of national weakness, it is a sign of national success."

DAVIS: You know, I didn't hear everything you said because there is so much static on this line. But I believe legal immigration is a strength in California because all immigrants meet some form of resistance.

And the ability to overcome that comes from an inner strength, a willingness to show people you do have what it takes to be successful, whether it's a better service or running a better company. And we've been the beneficiary of immigrants' ability to overcome resistance and to prove that they have the talent it takes to succeed in California.

I hope I answered your question because I had trouble hearing it.

SHAW: Yes you did. Thanks very much.

And Jeff, the governor said legal immigration, not illegal, as I misquoted him. Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, and we want to thank Governor Gray Davis of California for joining us wearing us one of those headsets that the networks used to use at the conventions. I remember those headsets very, very well.

When we come back, more on California, exit polls, interviews with voters as they left the place where they voted. We'll be right back with that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: We told you there was a lot to talk about when it comes to California. And the man who has got all the information right in front of him is Bill Schneider.

And Bill, it's all yours. Take it away.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, California has become the cornerstone of the new Democratic majority, the new Democratic majority created by Clinton. Clintonism, fiscal responsibility, social tolerance, it sells in California.

We have a unique opportunity in California because their primary was open to all parties. So we asked the voters there today, "How would you vote if the election were held right now between Al Gore and George Bush?" And look what we found, Gore would beat Bush in California by eight points.

Now that says that Bush may have some problems in this election. We can get some sense of what the next eight-month campaign will be about. We asked Californians, "What's more important to you in casting your vote?"

Among those voters who said issues were more important, Gore has an 11-point lead over Bush. Governor Davis just mentioned the economy, health care, education, Social Security, gun control. Those are all issues that favor the Democrats. The Democrats are likely to run on the issues.

But what about those Californians -- and they were larger in number -- who said they were looking for a candidate who showed leadership and personal qualities. There, Bush has a 10-point lead over Gore.

So what we clearly see for the outline of the campaign over the next eight months is that the Republicans are going to run on personal qualities. They know that Gore is a difficult candidate to elect. As Vice President, he has not been a leader. That's not his job. And Bush has many attractive personal qualities, including that of strong leadership.

The Democrats are going to run a very strong race on all those issues the governor was just talking about, primary among them the economy. George Bush is supposed to be the new face of the Republican Party. He's supposed to compete with Clintonism by offering a combination of fiscal conservatism, social inclusion, and tolerance to compete with Clinton's formula for wrapping up California.

The problem is he's been pushed to the right by this primary campaign. So a lot of voters may be led to conclude perhaps he isn't the real thing, perhaps he's an old-fashioned conservative Republican no different from George Bush and Bob Dole and those who have lost California in the 1990s.

You know, what happens usually is that a party has to lose three elections in a row before they learn that they have to change. The Democrats lost in 1980, 1984, and 1988.

They thought Dukakis was a change, a new face for the Democratic Party. When he lost, they realized we have to offer something very different. And that was Clintonism.

Republicans think that they're offering something very different with George Bush. We'll see if it works in a state like California because if it doesn't, Tony Blankley I think just had the right comment. He said if Bush loses in November, there is an alternative available. It's the McCain formula to change the Republican Party, make it more of a Reform Party. And McCain himself may be available.

The Republicans are not going to change their message in any radical way this year. But if Bush were to lose this year, then I think there would be a serious stock taking in the GOP just as there was after the Democrats lost three elections in a row. WOODRUFF: That's right. All right, Bill Schneider, a whole lot to think about tonight. We're looking ahead to November and even beyond.

But today is March 7. Much has happened today, primaries across this nation.

For some thoughtful consideration of what's been going on, let's go to two commentators, John Fund, who is with the editorial page of the "Wall Street Journal." He joins us from New York. And right here in Atlanta, Cynthia Tucker, who is the editorial page editor of the "Atlanta Constitution."

Cynthia, John, you look at these results. To some extent, you might say it's predictable. But John Fund, was it really so predictable?

JOHN FUND, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": I think it was. The establishment in both parties has set up conventional rules, super delegates for the Democrats, and I think a tilted winner-take-all system for the Republicans that pretty much mean the frontrunner is going to win unless there is a complete collapse.

George Bush I think will look back on this and say, "This made me a better candidate. I got the scare of my life. But I managed to shake down a lot of my debate awkwardness and all of that." Bush is going to be pleased in the fall. But his mistakes were made in the spring and not then.

GREENFIELD: Cynthia Tucker, you just heard, I hope you did, Bill Schneider, giving us an analysis from the key state of California that Bush runs stronger on personal qualities, Al Gore runs stronger on issues. And the Bush campaign has made no secret of the fact that they think issues are not the driving force of this campaign. Do you think that that's a wise calculation, or is it fraught with danger?

CYNTHIA TUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that George W. Bush is going to do a lot of studying and get a lot smarter on the issues before November. I certainly think that he hopes to play on personal characteristics.

He still makes this very strong statement about restoring honor and integrity to the White House. He certainly believes that that will be part of his campaign.

But I think this whole business of Clinton fatigue, the disgust that the entire nation is supposed to have with the president, has been overstated. So I think it would be dangerous for George W. Bush to concentrate on that alone.

But I quite frankly don't think he will. I think he will get a lot smarter on a lot of issues.

By the way, it was interesting tonight that he didn't talk about -- you know, granted he didn't have time to go into his whole agenda -- but I haven't heard a lot from Bush lately about tax cuts. And so he may have decided that that's one of those issues he's not going to play up in the general election campaign.

SHAW: John and Cynthia, for a moment starting with you, John, tell us in your judgment, what are the one or two, maybe three, prime vulnerabilities of both these candidates assuming that Vice President Gore gets his party's nomination and Governor Bush gets his?

FUND: Well, I think Al Gore developed a little bit of a reputation in this campaign for being a bit ruthless. If there were product endorsements in the political Olympics with Al Gore, I think he would be called the Whopper with a hammer.

And I think he's going to run a very negative campaign that's modeled actually after the Bush campaign against Dukakis in 1988, relentlessly trying to picture George W. Bush as an extremist. That would be a vulnerability. We've already heard from Governor Davis tonight an attack on George W. Bush for signing a concealed carry permit gun law in Texas. So those would be two clear vulnerabilities.

Gore has to be ruthless to paint Bush as an extremist. But if he goes too far, he may I think raise those negatives. Al Gore has a 45 percent negative rating. That's not just Clinton fatigue. It's also the fact that he doesn't have a clear profile as vice president.

WOODRUFF: Cynthia Tucker, how -- I'm sorry, Bernie, go ahead.

SHAW: And Cynthia, your thought about vulnerabilities.

TUCKER: Well, one of Bush's weaknesses is the one that was just alluded to. And that is this notion that he doesn't know enough to be president, this notion that he's a lightweight. And so I think Gore will try very hard to portray him that way and to contrast his experience both in the Senate and in his years as vice president.

On the flip side, of course, Gore has all those campaign finance excesses. And we will hear about those over and over again from the Bush campaign, and rightly so I think. That is something that, a big mistake that Al Gore made. And he ought to be reminded of that. And he will be in the general election campaign.

WOODRUFF: John Fund, given the difference of opinion between -- to put it mildly -- between John McCain and George W. Bush over campaign finance reform, if John McCain exits this campaign this week, have we heard the end of campaign finance reform this year?

FUND: Oh, no. I think the Democrats are going to bring it up in the Senates. They're going to have lots of floor votes on it.

But remember, this is an issue which I don't think has real traction with the American people. It does with the pondocracy (ph). And that's because the American people believe that all money in politics is tainted. And they somehow are skeptical that you can cleanse the system.

I don't think it really worked with John McCain. I think his success in these primaries was because of his personal qualities, not his specific campaign finance proposal. GREENFIELD: All right, John Fund, Cynthia Tucker, we thank you both. Just to footnote something, or perhaps amend it, George Bush did refer to tax cuts in his victory speech tonight. He did say, "I want to cut taxes for everyone who pays taxes. The polls say it's not popular. But I'm not proposing it because it's the popular thing to do. I'm proposing it because it's the right thing to do."

When we come back in a minute, we rejoin the "Capital Gang" in Washington.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREENFIELD: It is early in the morning on March 8. On a date when it past years the primaries hadn't begun, the nominations may have effectively been ended in both parties. For more, much more, on what this means, we go to the "Capital Gang."

MARK SHIELDS, HOST, "CAPITAL GANG": Thank you very much, Jeff. I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, with Kate O'Beirne, and with Robert Novak.

California is history. The Golden State is in. The question is was it ever winnable for John McCain?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CAPITAL GANG": Absolutely. There was a feeling on a couple of occasions after New Hampshire and after Michigan when the bottom was falling out of the Bush campaign if John McCain had done the right things. And the...

SHIELDS: Which were?

NOVAK: ... to appeal to the conservative Republicans and to the card carrying Republicans, come over. I mean, he had the liberals and the independents and the Democratic crossovers. He had to go for the Republicans.

He never did it. Instead, he attacked Pat Robertson and poor old Jerry Falwell who hasn't been in Republican politics for 15 years. Just an absolutely improbable calculation because the poll indicated, and beyond the polls the observation indicated, that the bottom was falling out for George Bush in California. If he had lost California, it was finito.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, you really saw that kind of restlessness and nervousness in the ranks of the Bush supporters?

KATE O'BEIRNE, "CAPITAL GANG": Yes. I think after John McCain's huge win in New Hampshire, they were reassured when George Bush regained his footing in South Carolina. They thought everything would be OK. And then they were hit with Michigan. And for some period of time, a lot of Bush supporters had one foot over the railing.

SHIELDS: Ready to join McCain.

O'BEIRNE: Yes. They wanted to win so badly. And many of them were beginning to wonder whether or not McCain might be the better candidate in the fall.

And then in addition to what he had already been doing, tax cuts for the rich, criticizing George Bush's tax cuts plan, and the curse words to the left which the base watches with suspicion. Then he turns his attention to the other part of the Republican base and picks a huge fight with social conservatives. Inexplicable, really, because we saw tonight George Bush was able to rally lukewarm supporters in many cases, lukewarm supporters around him, bring the economic and social conservatives together and then as a result knocked John McCain out even in California.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, I think this masks a certain weakness though still of George W. Bush, even after the impressive line of victories tonight. Up until the fact that he had only carried states that Bob Dole and George Bush, Sr. had carried against John McCain, he carried only those states.

He lost all the states where Bill Clinton had carried. I mean, and he showed a certain weakness and a certain fragility...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... No, I'm talking about up to tonight, up to tonight.

AL HUNT, "CAPITAL GANG": Oh, sorry, sorry.

SHIELDS: I mean, he was winning in those states. And I think -- there's a consensus that those were the two weakest Republican nominees in the past 35 years, Dole and Bush, Sr.

HUNT: Mark, look, we have the two nominees. That's clear. And we are now in a new stage. We finished the first stage...

SHIELDS: Right.

HUNT: ... And the essential question now is which of these nominees is coming into it in the best shape, which is the least scarred.

SHIELDS: Yeah.

HUNT: And a lot can change in eight months. But as of today, I don't think there is any question that the more ready for prime time of the two is Al Gore.

Look at California. He's got an eight-point advantage as we just showed in the poll.

George Bush among those people who voted today has a negative rating. California is going to be off the boards. It is almost surely a Gore win, which means he can spend more resources elsewhere.

This election is certainly not over. Bush can still win it. But as of today, I would feel better if I were a Gore person coming out of these primaries than if I were a Bush person.

NOVAK: Let me say a word about California. I was out there for the last weekend...

SHIELDS: Right.

NOVAK: ... And he has -- Governor Bush made a commitment to the local people out there who supported him loyally. They weren't the people with one foot over, the establishment and the members of the legislature...

SHIELDS: The commitment was?

NOVAK: ... The commitment was that he will unlike Bob Dole...

SHIELDS: And his dad.

NOVAK: ... he will stick to -- and his dad -- he will stick to California even if it looks like he's going to go down there, which I think it is an uphill climb. But for party building purposes, I think he is going to try to get there.

But there's no question that the way it is shaping up now is you have California and the northeast trending Democrats, the south, including the southwest, trending Republican, and the battle being in the Midwest.

SHIELDS: OK, let's...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... quickly move this. Irrespective of Pat Robertson and attacks upon him, George W. Bush comes out of this primary season as the nominee. Vice presidential choice? I will posit this, that he is limited right now. He has to choose an ardent pro-life candidate based upon the key indispensable support given to him by the national right-to-life and the pro-life folks. And secondly, I think he has to pick a Catholic or at least put a Catholic on the top of the list.

HUNT: You're half-right. He has to pick a Catholic.

I'm not sure. I think there are certain people who are not pro- life that he could get away with, Colin Powell being one. But I think he -- if it's not someone like Colin Powell, he has to pick a Catholic.

NOVAK: I think Colin Powell is special. If he were to say yes, everything else would go out the window because he's arguably the most popular man in America. Otherwise, a Catholic? Who is a conservative Catholic who's got a little gray in the hair?

HUNT: Bob Novak. Bob Novak.

O'BEIRNE: I took care of the gray.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Who is it?

O'BEIRNE: Bill Bennett?

NOVAK: Of course.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Why not?

SHIELDS: Wow, I would not put somebody on a national ticket who had never been out there, who had never been vetted, never gone through an adversarial situation. I like Bill Bennett. But my goodness sakes, I think that would be worse than a roll of the dice.

O'BEIRNE: Do you know what? There's good news...

HUNT: Bill Bennett says his brother can attest for him. Of course, his brother also attested for John McCain.

SHIELDS: And for Bill Clinton.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BEIRNE: There's good news in a lot of these numbers for George Bush. Women voters like George Bush. In state...

HUNT: Republican women voters.

O'BEIRNE: ... In state after state, he beats McCain. And his numbers very often...

(CROSSTALK)

O'BEIRNE: ... are higher among women than among men. This is especially good news for George Bush because Republicans don't have problems with male voters. And the fact that he's so attractive to women voters I think is a big plus.

It happened in California too. In fact, among all the candidates, he won outright among white women.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: He must have some appeal to women because a jet fighter pilot obviously had great appeal to men. I mean, that was John McCain's appeal was to men, or Republican men and independent men. Even in this closing day as John McCain is losing his quest for the presidency, he continues to carry independents overwhelmingly against, even in California, he carried them three to two against George Bush.

HUNT: And Mark, wins general election match-ups in state after state. I mean, John McCain was the Democrats' worst nightmare they're not going to have to endure.

NOVAK: You cannot win whether you're Eisenhower, or whether you're any kind of outsider, you cannot win your party's nomination if the whole machinery of the party is against you. It can't be done, Mark. SHIELDS: Bob, that's the final word. That's from Bob Novak. And now back to Bernie Shaw.

SHAW: And we thank you grandly.

When we come back, a last look at the delegate count and some closing thoughts from us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: All night long we've been telling you and you've been aware that the name of this Super Tuesday game tonight is delegates.

Wolf Blitzer with a final look at how it shaped up.

BLITZER: Bernie, let's recap where the delegate count stands at this moment.

First of all, on the Democratic side, we estimate that Vice President Al Gore has 1,306 delegates of the 2,170 needed for the nomination, Bill Bradley with 386. On the Republican side, we estimate that Governor Bush has 660 of the 1,034 necessary for the nomination. John McCain has 210.

And he's been with us throughout the evening, Scott Reed, you've been giving some final thoughts to where Governor Bush may be looking for a possible vice presidential running mate.

SCOTT REED, FORMER BOB DOLE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: As Bush goes through this period over the next few months leading up to Philadelphia, he really has to analyze his campaign and his candidacy and what his strengths and weaknesses are. I think there are two sleeper candidates out there that could complement Bush.

The first is Senator Fred Thompson from Tennessee, Gore's home state. He was a McCain supporter. It would be good outreach for the McCain campaign. He knows more about the campaign finance scandals than anybody else. And he could take it to Gore.

The other is the governor of Oklahoma, Frank Keating. He's a former FBI agent. He's a Roman Catholic. And he's pro-life. A neighboring state of Bush, but a very close relationship with Bush. Yes, we're going to win those nine electoral votes in Oklahoma. But he could be a big asset in the Midwest.

BLITZER: All right, Stuart Rothenberg, you've been giving some thoughts on the third party in all of this, the Reform Party. We haven't heard the end from Pat Buchanan or maybe even Ross Perot.

STUART ROTHENBERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm sure we'll here more, Wolf.

Look, the two major parties have nominated establishment candidates. That means the outsider reform message is still available to somebody, maybe the Reform Party. They're also going to get over $12 million, the candidate, in public funds. That makes them a factor. Remember, we don't really have a national election. We have a series of state elections. If the Reformers could be active in one or two states, peel off some votes from Republicans, it would be an awful big problem for George Bush.

BLITZER: David Peeler, on the ad campaign, both of these candidates if in fact it is Bush and Gore, they're going to be relying on their respective political parties to pick up a lot of that expenditure.

PEELER: Well, I think that's a fair point, Wolf. What's going to happen very shortly is that the parties will take over the advertising campaigns.

I would suspect that somebody is sitting at the DNC today looking through the file footage of assault rifles. And somebody is at the RNC looking to see how many stand-ups they have in front of a Buddhist temple. I suspect it's going to get pretty nasty pretty early.

BLITZER: All right, David Peeler, Stuart Rothenberg, Scott Reed, back to the desk.

GREENFIELD: Thank you, Wolf. Bill Schneider, I'll give you four quick thoughts that should gladden the heart of people who look for rules in politics, fools as we are. It's very hard to be the sitting vice president. Frontrunners tend to win the Republican nomination.

And two others that I can't remember right now. Oh, long shots have to run a perfect campaign. That's three. Any notions that you see that describe this campaign in general terms?

SCHNEIDER: Well, first of all, what I'd like to say is really two things. The McCain phenomenon, that was something real.

The McCain phenomenon brought out millions of voters all over the country. It was a sensation. And it cannot be lightly dismissed, even though clearly the Republicans didn't want anything to do with it.

Something brought out all those voters, and it's a lasting sentiment. People are saying the economy is good, our own lives are good, but politics is broken in this country. And that's a message that's not going to disappear with McCain's campaign.

Second of all, every indication is the issues favor Gore. Personal qualities favor Bush. Americans want a change of leadership, they don't want a change of direction.

I think the indications are this is going to be a very close election. The leads are going to go back and forth over the next eight months.

And I believe, and I'll predict this, I'm going out on a limb. I think the night before the election in November, we are not going to be able to predict, we're not going to know who's going to win.

WOODRUFF: In other words, you're predicting a very close election.

SCHNEIDER: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider.

SHAW: I don't hear the limb cracking so far.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: One point I want to make -- two points I want to make. One is we're all -- we're looking ahead because that's what we love to do in this business. At this stage, however, we still have two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination.

Bill Bradley is still in there. Just two days ago, Bill Bradley said of Al Gore, "He's distorted the record considerably. He said a number of things untrue about his own record and about mine." Some healing still to be done on the Democratic side.

Certainly some healing left to be done on the Republican side as well. John McCain saying over the weekend Clintonesque has been the Bush campaign. So Bernie and Jeff, we still have some work to do before the two nominees can look toward the convention.

SHAW: And apparently there's going to be some breathing room. These guys are going to take some time off, a couple of days, 48 hours. Things will probably start jelling around Friday, would you think?

GREENFIELD: Yeah, I think in fact both Bradley and John McCain may be out of the race by Friday. And when it comes to very nasty campaigns, you can't get much more nasty than Eisenhower-Taft in 1952. And that worked out pretty well. And Lyndon Johnson and John Kennedy had some unpleasant things to say about each other in 1960. And that worked out OK.

The fact is, and it's very important to remember this, this is March 8 I guess now that we passed midnight. And if we're going to spend the next five months figuring out vice presidential nominees and cabinet members, I may just take a leave of absence. It's too early.

WOODRUFF: Well, you know, there's Michael Jordan. I mean, he was out there with a TV ad for Bill Bradley. We had Spike Lee, Ed Koch. I mean, there are all these interesting folks who played a role in this campaign.

SHAW: Well, and some, I would say that this was a Bush-Gore winning night, a nightmare for Senator Bill Bradley, and so far an 11th hour survival for John McCain.

WOODRUFF: So far. So far.

SHAW: Well, we've reached the end of our journalistic ropes. There are so many people on the CNN staff to thank. It's been an excellent night. As the president of CNN said, "It's been an extraordinary Super Tuesday night." WOODRUFF: Absolutely.

GREENFIELD: It has. And it's not over yet. Jim Moret takes over in the next hour from the West Coast with more coverage. We'll be finding out about perhaps who actually won that California beauty contest. We may be here to do it in the morning show, for all we know.

SHAW: Well, certainly we'll get it done at "INSIDE POLITICS" at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time tomorrow. We'll all be back in Washington.

WOODRUFF: We've got "EARLY EDITION." I'm being told in my ear not to leave out any of these important programs coming up on CNN throughout this night and tomorrow. It has been an extraordinary Super Tuesday...

SHAW: Certainly.

WOODRUFF: ... the first of its kind in political history in this country. And the results, they're still out there. There are still some unknown outcomes, particularly that nonpartisan race in the state of California.

GREENFIELD: But our work here is done. For everyone at CNN, thanks for watching.

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