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New Hampshire

By Michael Lee - posted Wednesday, 9 February 2000

A week is a long time in politics is a hackneyed line, but for GOP front runner George W Bush it probably has new meaning after the New Hampshire primaries. Only a week ago Bush had won the Iowa Caucuses and was expecting a win, albeit a tough one, in New Hampshire. His campaign had raised over $US69 million and had the backing of nearly every GOP elected official from the past and present. He had a towering lead over his opponents in the national polls and an aura of inevitability about him.

Enter Senator John McCain and the New Hampshire Primary. The result was an absolute disaster for Bush who was thrashed by McCain by a whopping 18 percent margin. Even worse for Bush, who labelled himself as the Conservative candidate, were the exit polls which showed he was unable to capture more of the conservative vote than McCain. Asked what happened to Bush in New Hampshire, the McCain camp summed it up in one word - "Iceberg".

Bush for his part accepted the loss by saying it was just a bump on the road to the White House and that he expected things would be different from here on in.


Unfortunately for Bush it wasn’t to be. First came news that the Bush workers had forged people’s signatures to get Bush on the ballot in the 16th Congressional district in New York. Not exactly good news when the Bush camp had been trying to get both McCain and Steve Forbes struck off the ballot claiming technical irregularities in their petitions. By the end of the week the GOP establishment in New York, which has been favouring Bush, made the political decision to withdraw their challenges and allowed McCain and Forbes to be placed on the ballot across the State.

Second came the first series of polls in South Carolina since the New Hampshire primary results were released which showed McCain had surged to the lead or at worst was equal with Bush. Hardly great news when previous polls had showed Bush with a lead of over 20 points. Just as worrying were poll data coming from California which showed Bush wouldn’t beat Gore but McCain would. And just when Bush thought things couldn’t get any worse one of his supporters, launched a frontal assault on McCain and his commitment to veterans in an attempt to discredit him amongst the large voting population of veterans in South Carolina. Indeed the campaign for the votes of the veteran community will be a tough fight. But one has to wonder just how smart a move it was when one considers that McCain is a veteran himself having spent five and a half years as a POW in the "Hanoi Hilton".

And whilst Bush lurched from one problem to another the McCain camp was moving from strength to strength having raised a record amount of money from online contributions.

American campaigns more so than other campaigns rely heavily upon momentum. Take too many hits and things quickly go down hill. So it’s understandable that by the end of the week Bush was looking battered and weary. Indeed the "inevitability" tag was starting to look like "quite possibly".

Expect a big week ahead on the GOP side with plenty of negative attacks from the Bush camp.

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About the Author

Michael Lee is a Brisbane based consultant who assesses economic loss in litigation matters. His interests include human rights, American political history, and Native Title.

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