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Gore Wins Decisive Victories

Bush Captures 5 States as McCain Takes 3. GOP senator and Democrat Bradley are expected to reassess campaigns as front-runners move closer to securing parties nominations.

March 08, 2000|From Associated Press

Cruising across the regions, George W. Bush won five Republican presidential primary victories Tuesday in an accelerating drive to vanquish John McCain's political insurgency.

"It's a huge step toward the nomination," the Texas governor said as McCain struggled to broaden his challenge beyond independent-minded New England.

Bush won in Ohio, Georgia, Missouri and Maryland--and broke McCain's hold on the Northeast with a victory in Maine. McCain won in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont as voters in 13 states participated in the year's largest night of Republican presidential contests.

Bush said he did not consider himself the certain nominee. "Tonight's going to be a good night," he said, "but my frame of mind is to keep moving."

Forging familiar coalitions, Bush relied on party faithful while McCain drew from independents and moderate Republicans. McCain's gamble of criticizing conservative Christian leaders may have backfired in key states, while Bush's visit to a South Carolina university with a history of anti-Catholic views seemed to be a beneficial campaign issue for McCain in some states.

With Super Tuesday voting, the general election began to take shape: Vice President Al Gore was bidding to sweep 16 Democratic contests to push Sen. Bill Bradley to the brink of withdrawal. McCain's situation was not as dire, but his candidacy was flagging with a tough week just ahead.

Several McCain advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Arizona senator would take stock of his campaign Wednesday when he travels to his retreat in Sedona. Some aides planned to recommend the senator depart the race but McCain was hinting no such thing as he embraced his victories in Massachusetts and Vermont and held out hope in New York and Connecticut.

"Clearly, we have done very well on the East Coast," McCain said in a statement.

Bush's spokeswoman, Karen Hughes, suggested gently that McCain might want to reassess his candidacy.

Bush's victory in Ohio was sobering for McCain. He had won in Michigan and hoped to go next door to establish his strength.

Neither candidate could accumulate the magic number of 1,034 delegates Tuesday.

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