Bush Sweeps To Victory In 3 States He Won Gop Races In Virginia, Washington State And North Dakota. On The Democratic Side, Gore Also Won Big In Washington.

Posted: March 01, 2000

BURKE, Va. — A week before the biggest primary contest in American history, Texas Gov. George W. Bush swept three Republican presidential contests yesterday, defeating Arizona Sen. John McCain from conservative Virginia to independent-minded Washington state.

Bush carried Virginia by 53 to 44 percent over McCain. In largely uncontested precinct caucuses in North Dakota, he won the support of participants by a 76-19 margin. In Washington, Bush's lead among Republican voters was so commanding that he was declared the winner in early returns.

Radio commentator Alan Keyes finished a distant third in all three states.

In Washington state's nonbinding Democratic primary, Vice President Gore defeated former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley by a 2-1 ratio. While the vote awarded no delegates - they will be picked at party caucuses next Tuesday - it delivered a crushing blow to Bradley. Without a win and trailing in all polls, Bradley had poured time and resources into the Washington contest seeking a symbolic victory that might boost his sagging campaign.

Gore called his win "a sweet, sweet victory."

Having failed in Washington and trailing even in New York, where he once played professional basketball, Bradley is likely to face pressure to withdraw from the race and leave Gore free to turn his attention to the general election.

On the GOP side, Bush demonstrated again yesterday that he has deep support among rank-and-file Republicans, conservatives, and especially Christian conservatives. It is a likely formula for success in many of the coming primaries in which only GOP votes count - unlike contests such as Michigan's, won by McCain, in which independents and Democrats were also permitted to vote in the Republican event.

But for the first time yesterday, Bush also demonstrated that he could win a head-to-head Republican contest outside the South.

In Washington state, McCain again demonstrated his broad appeal, taking an early lead among those voters choosing a nonpartisan ballot. (Voters could select one of three ballots: Republican, Democratic or nonpartisan.) But the state Republican Party said Democratic and independent votes would not count toward choosing the state's delegation to the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia this summer.

Both Bush and McCain take those strengths with them as they fan out across the country in search of victory in the March 7 voting extravaganza that could decide the GOP nomination. On that day, 13 states including California, New York and Ohio will hold primaries or caucuses and award more than a quarter of all the convention delegates who will pick the nominee.

Yesterday evening, Bush predicted that his victory in Virginia signaled more wins ahead, and eventual success in his quest for the nomination.

"This campaign is winning, and we're doing it the right way," he told cheering supporters in Cincinnati. "We are expanding our base without destroying our foundation."

Bush was referring to his support from Christian conservatives, one of the party's most loyal voting blocs but increasingly a target of criticism from McCain as intolerant.

In Virginia, McCain tried to parlay his poor standing among Christian conservatives into a strength, attacking leaders such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as intolerant, and continuing to hammer Bush for appearing at fundamentalist Bob Jones University in South Carolina, which bans interracial dating and preaches anti-Catholicism.

He boasted that "the voters of Virginia rejected the politics of pitting one religion against another."

McCain, campaigning in California, congratulated Bush on his Virginia victory but questioned its value. "It seems as if he has a Southern strategy here, doing well in the Southern states," McCain told reporters. "And we'll look forward to Super Tuesday, when we have a broad section, a cross-section, of Americans voting all on that same day."

McCain had retired for the evening before the Washington results were in.

As he did in South Carolina on Feb. 19, Bush won in a conservative Southern state where he is popular with rank-and-file Republicans - the same voters who may hold the key to victory in states where independents and Democrats are shut out and only GOP votes count.

Bush carried Virginia Republican voters by a 3-1 ratio, according to exit polls, underscoring as he did in South Carolina and Michigan McCain's inability to attract his own party's core supporters. Bush also won heavily among women, and narrowly among veterans.

Among voters who consider themselves part of the religious right, Bush won by more than 8-1. Among those who think abortion should be illegal under any circumstance, Bush won by 5-1.

McCain's best showing in the Virginia race was in its Washington, D.C., suburbs, the state's most moderate region, according to voter surveys by Voter News Service, a consortium of the Associated Press and television networks.

With 56 delegates, Virginia was yesterday's biggest prize.

Twelve delegates were at stake in Washington state - with 25 more to be picked in caucuses there next week. North Dakota's 19 delegates were split proportionally based on the voting results, with Bush capturing 14, McCain 4 and Keyes 1.

It was the biggest day so far in the primary season, and served as a warm-up for Super Tuesday.

Looking ahead to that event, Bush campaigned yesterday in Ohio while McCain stumped in California.

Underscoring the escalating stakes in the Republican contest, the two campaigns continued to snipe at each other over religion.

Bush made a hastily arranged visit to a Catholic community outreach center in Cleveland and again said he regretted appearing at Bob Jones University in South Carolina without speaking against its anti-Catholic teachings. He accused McCain of labeling him an anti-Catholic bigot in a new round of recorded telephone calls to voters.

McCain advisers said the calls were accurate and accused Bush of "Election Day hysteria."

Bush looked yesterday to build on his weekend sweep of little-noticed primaries and caucuses in American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands that netted him all of their 26 delegates.

He counted on solid support from Republicans drawn to his message of ambitious tax cuts and social conservatism, and he hoped to build on his steady base within Republican ranks and start drawing votes from independents and Democrats allowed to vote in Virginia and Washington state.

"I just like the guy," said Karen Golinowski, a part-time accountant and stay-at-home mother in Burke, Va., who pointed to Bush's agenda of reducing taxes, curbing government and opposing abortion. "Abortion is a big issue," she said. "McCain is more permissive. He wavers more."

A Catholic, Golinowski said she thought Bush's visit to Bob Jones University was a mistake, but said she was not offended by it.

McCain worked yesterday to win more support from Republicans, which he will need in coming weeks in primaries where only party members get to vote.

"I like his background . . . the fact he was a hero, that he seems like a nice person," said Mary McFarland, a saleswoman from Burke.

Also yesterday, aides reported that McCain, reaping the spoils of his primary victories in New Hampshire and Michigan, raised $10 million in February, gaining ground on the better-financed Bush.

More than 40 percent of McCain's February money came from donors who contributed over the Internet, the aides said. And because so much came in small contributions, McCain will qualify for an additional $5 million in federal matching funds.

Bush, who by not accepting matching funds is not bound by spending limits, raised just $1.5 million during the first two weeks of February and has more fund-raisers scheduled this month.

On the Democratic side, Bradley had spent considerable effort in Washington, hoping for good results after sustaining only losses.

Bradley, who lost to Gore in Iowa, New Hampshire and Delaware, likes to say that he is the Democratic reformer and that McCain is the Republican one. And though they are not competing head-on, McCain's popularity among independents and Democrats clearly has hurt Bradley.

Gore, meanwhile, attracted voters who credited President Clinton with presiding over a booming economy. "Vice President Gore will continue those practices," said Steve Hopkins, a retired Boeing customer-relations employee from Renton, Wash.

PRESIDENTIAL VOTING RESULTS

Here is the percentage of the vote each candidate won in yesterday's contests.

NORTH DAKOTA CAUCUSES

Republican: 19 delegates

Candidate Percent of Vote

George W. Bush 76

John McCain 19

Alan Keyes 5

100% of returns counted

VIRGINIA PRIMARY

Republican: 56 delegates

George W. Bush 53

John McCain 44

Alan Keyes 3

WASHINGTON PRIMARY

Republican: 37 delegates*

*25 of these delegates are not chosen until March 7 caucuses.

George W. Bush 59

John McCain 38

Alan Keyes 2

50% of returns counted

DEMOCRATIC: 94 DELEGATES**

**No delegates are chosen until March 7 caucuses.

Al Gore 70

Bill Bradley 30

* Jay Root of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Ben Stocking and Jodi Enda of the Inquirer Washington Bureau contributed to this article. It also includes information from the Associated Press.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|