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Super Tuesday Sets Stage for Longest, Costliest Race

March 08, 2000|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Eight months to the day from the ticket-shaping verdicts of Super Tuesday, Americans will elect a new president, choosing between Democrat Al Gore and, almost surely, Republican George W. Bush to settle what will be the longest and costliest head-to-head White House campaign ever waged.

That, barring some incredible change, is the prospect, with the vice president piling on victories in a sweep over Democratic challenger Bill Bradley, and the Texas governor capturing states Sen. John McCain couldn't afford to lose.

Ohio was the first among them.

Bush's landslide undercut McCain's fading hope of a combination that would keep him going as a competitor into major state primaries later in the spring. His own strategists said he couldn't do it without Ohio.

Bush also won in Georgia, Missouri, Maryland and Maine. He said he'd taken a huge step toward the nomination but did not consider it won yet.

McCain captured Connecticut--once the political home of the Bush family--Massachusetts and Vermont, New England support that showed first when he vaulted past Bush to start the season in New Hampshire, just five weeks ago. McCain's victory there fueled a fierce Republican contest that turned harsh, personal and divisive, a split that could hurt the party unless it heals.

While their cash reserves may be about even now, Bush is going after $10 million more, and Gore still faces spending restrictions that do not apply to the governor because he didn't accept federal campaign subsidies.

The candidates will start even after the conventions; each nominee gets $67.6 million in federal funds for the general election campaign. There's also a wild card: the $12.5 million available to the Reform Party nominee, with ex-Republican Pat Buchanan seeking that role and bankroll.

In the Democratic contest, Gore and Bradley both had tempered their attack tactics in the final push toward Super Tuesday.

Voter polls in Tuesday's primary states pointed to some vulnerabilities facing Bush. One voter in three questioned whether he had the knowledge required to serve effectively as president.

Gore's victories were built on the votes of Democrats who said they wanted a strong, experienced leader.

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