The San Francisco Examiner from San Francisco, California on February 3, 2000 · 18
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The San Francisco Examiner from San Francisco, California · 18

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Thursday, February 3, 2000
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A-18 Thurid.y, February 3, 2000 SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER C Vice President Al Gore takes questions from students at LA.. City College on Wednesday evening. Gore spent about two hours with the group, sometimes apologizing for rambling responses that betrayed his fatigue after almost 24 hours of nonstop campaigning. T; J y-vv -a V I - " IV j 1" ' l ' 1 ' PRIMARY from A-1 Al Gore meets California voters of candidates expected to make a post-New Hampshire pilgrimage to California this week to kick off their primary campaigns here. Gore's Democratic rival, former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, is hosting a noon rally at San Francisco's Ferry Building. Both Gore and Bradley also plan to be back, for the state Democratic convention in San Jose a week later. On the Republican side, Arizona Sen. John McCain hopes to fatten his campaign piggy bank at fund-raisers in Los Angeles and the Bay Area Friday and Saturday. He will also address the Republican state convention in Burlin-game this weekend. GOP hopefuls Steve Forbes and Alan Keyes will speak at the convention, as well. The only prominent name without a California stop on his itinerary this week is Texas Gov. George W. Bush though aides say he will come later in the month. The GOP front runner is sending his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, to speak on his behalf at the convention. Before the New Hampshire primary Tuesday, some pundits had speculated that the nominations would be all but wrapped up long before California voters cast their ballots, especially if challengers McCain and Bradley fared poorly. But the New Hampshire results may have changed the equation, political observers now say. McCain's double-digit win over Bush has cast doubts on the idea that Bush's nomination is inevitable. And Bradley's relatively close second place finish means Gore is no shoo-in to be the Democrats' pick in November. "California is critical because New Hampshire wasn't decisive" for any of the candidates, explained UC Berkeley political scientist Ray Wolfinger. Though Gore and Bush have the advantage of strong party support in California and other states, McCain and Bradley remain serious challengers, he said. And many state voters are only now beginning to focus on the race. "A lot of people won't start paying attention until a few days before the primary," Wolfinger said. Gore made California one of his first whistle stops to capitalize on the media attention surrounding his finish in New Hampshire, where he edged out Bradley with 50 percent to 46 percent. At his town hall meeting Wednesday night, he touted his come-from-behind victory, noting that Bradley had led New Hampshire for 14 straight weeks. He said he won even though "the other fellow spent more money and more time" in the state. Also in attendance was Garry South, chief political advisor to Gov. Davis and now chair of Gore's California steering committee. He said Bradley's reasonably strong showing in New Hampshire was an aberration, and predicted a much wider margin for Gore in the California primary. "When you look at the Bradley vote in New Hampshire, it is largely skewed to upper income groups (and) it is largely skewed to people with a higher degree of education," South said. "Although Democrats need to do well with those groups to win the general election, that is not really the base of the Democratic party. Al Gore, in my judgment, has much more capability of dealing with the very broad constituencies that constitute the Democratic party." UC Irvine political scientist Mark Pctrflcca also believes Bradley and McCain could have a harder time in California than in New Hampshire. Despite California's so-called open primary, the votes of independents or voters who cross party lines on March 7 won't count toward the Democratic or Republican nominations because of rules demanded by the state and national parties. Instead their votes will tallied in a separate result that will be released by the Secretary of State, but will not contribute to the number of delegates the parties award to candidates. And as New Hampshire showed, both Bradley and McCain had strong appeal among independent and crossover voters. Petracca said he fears that when voters are made aware of this, many independents and independent-minded voters will skip the election altogether, which could have a major impact on down ballot races, including several high-profile ballot measures. Gore opened the town hall meeting by asking the audience for a moment of silence for the victims of the Alaska Airlines flight 261 crash off the coast of Los Angeles. He said the gesture was "in honor of those who have lost their lives" and for family and friends "who have suffered such heavy losses." Dressed in a black dress shirt, gray slacks and black cowboy boots, the vice president played to the ethnically diverse and heavily Democratic crowd, making joking asides about Nixon and about his new grandson, Wyatt, being born a Democrat. When one student praised him for being "way ahead of the times" in his understanding of the Internet and new technologies, Gore joked to the crowd, "You noticed he did not say I INVENTED the Internet." Gore was scheduled to discuss economic issues Thursday morning at Digital Domain, a high-tech company in Venice, L.A. County, before flying to Washington state. Wednesday's meeting was billed as a discussion with undecided voters, but interviews with voters after the meeting suggested that the crowd was full of Gore backers. About half the crowd was City College students and faculty. The other half had been invited by Gore campaign officials and Los Angeles county officials. Because voters, not reporters, asked questions, topics centered, less on presidential politics and more on specific questions about government programs and policies. A formerly homeless disabled woman asked what Gore would do to help the disabled get government help for job training. A senior who said she crosses the border to Tijuana to get cheaper rates on prescription drugs asked what the vice president would do to get drug companies to APCHAKLES KRUPA drop their prices. A student active in gang prevention asked what Gore would do to discourage kids from joining gangs. Gore earned strong applause during the session for his calls for programs aimed at benefiting low-and mid- income families, including: raising by $1 the federal minimum wage, providing universal child care and expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires that companies give time off to workers with family emergencies. At times he drifted into long-winded and technical discussions as he tried to explain microchip development, global warming and the economic bogeyman of the 1970s, "stagflation." But Gore generally appeared at ease and confi-1 dent discussing almost any issue j members of the audience raised. ! He was caught off guard only1 twice: Once, when a supporter of Democratic candidate Lyndon La-rouche attacked the civil rights record of Gore and his father, who was also a Tennessee senator; and later, when a high school senior asked Gore what he thought about the controversy at new Belmont High School, which the Los Angeles Unified spent millions building before discovering it sat on top of an old oil field which could release toxic gases. Gore derided the Larouche supporter's question as politically motivated. He promised the high school senior he would look into the issues at Belmont School. "The next time I see you I'll be an expert on that." Gore was evasive when a questioner asked him what he thought of Clinton's signing of the Defense of Marriage Act. Pressed by the same questioner after the event about the issue, Gore said, 'I don't think I would have voted for it." But he admitted, at the late hour of 12:30 a.m. Thursday, that he could not recall exactly Clinton's reasons for signing the bill, which outlawed gay marriage on the federal level. At the same time, Gore restated his opposition to the Knight initiative, a measure to ban gay marriage on the March ballot in California, calling it mean-spirited. Darryl Stefin, 50, a drug and alcohol counselor who attended the event, said he was on the fence between Bradley and Gore before the meeting. Afterward he said he was leaning toward backing Gore. "I was looking at Bradley because I knew him from his basketball days," Stefin said. "But after hearing Gore talk, I think he's genuine in what he says and I think he's a person who's looking out for the poor." Elizabeth Reeds, a 25-year-old City College English major, said she found herself agreeing with most of what Gore said. "I know he's thought it all out," she said, while admitting she doubts he could get many of his more liberal initiatives passed by GOP-domi-nated Congress. Several voters said they simply enjoyed the experience of getting to go one-on-one with a candidate a common experience in Iowa in New Hampshire, but not California. - ... "I wish every state had what New Hampshire had," said Beth Anderson, a real estate owner from Malibu nno Trtfl eiyjsuu., uvuguuuu wins ftwr mth airolinai One touts his independence, the other his conservatism By Glen Johnson ASSOCIATED PRESS FLORENCE, S.C. Responding more aggressively to his top rival's criticism, George W. Bush collected endorsements from retired generals and war heroes Thursday and accused John McCain of using "Washington-style politics" on the Social Security issue. McCain continued to question Bush's fitness to lead. The Arizona senator told supporters in Beaufort he wouldn't need "on-the-job training" as commander in chief suggesting Texas Gov. Bush does. Hoping to dispel that notion and appeal to South Carolina's large military population, Bush accepted endorsements from a parade of veterans' groups, Medal of Honor winners, and retired generals, led by retired Adm. Thomas H. Moorer. "Just looking around at all these generals, kind of makes me feel like I'm already in the situation room," Bush joked, flanked by retired military men under a giant American flag. Later he made a more pointed reference to McCain, who was a pilot and prisoner of war in Vietnam. There is "a big difference between being somebody who had a distinguished military career and someone who's trying to lead the country," Bush said. McCain is banking on military support in the state's Feb. 19 primary, a crucial contest for his campaign. Bush served stateside in the Texas Air National Guard during Vietnam. Speaking in Beaufort Thursday, McCain warned about the threats posed by Iraq, China, North Korea and international terrorists. "This is a very dangerous world that we still live in," he said, declaring himself "fully prepared to be commander in chief." McCain also called for higher pay for the military, bemoaning the fact that some service members need food stamps. And he criticized the Clinton administration for conducting "foreign policy as social work." McCain also planned a fuller foreign policy speech as he campaigned across South Carolina Thursday. McCain also is running ads in South Carolina that, without mentioning Bush by name, suggest his plan would fail to protect Social Security. "Any ad that's being run by John McCain that infers, implies or says that I don't reserve money for Social Security is Washington-style politics," Bush said. He said his budget plan would make sure Social Security payroll taxes are shielded from other uses. Bush gets backing In Sumter, Bush appeared with Moorer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Nixon; five retired generals, including former Citadel President Claudius "Bud" Watts; and three Medal of Honor winners from South Carolina. He also was endorsed by the national Vietnam and Gulf War Veterans Coalition, a federation of 102 veterans groups, and the Coalition of Retired Military Veterans, based in Sumter. He called for a top-to-bottom military review, saying he wanted new research to build a "lighter, more lethal, more agile, harder to find" fighting force. He called for $1 billion in military pay raises. Bush said as president he would simplify the process for receiving veterans' benefits and promised to reduce overseas deployments a line that brought a big cheer from the crowd, which included a smattering of service members in uniform. McCain was greeted in South Carolina by ads criticizing him for sponsoring legislation to raise tobacco taxes, paid for by the National Smokers Alliance, a tobacco industry group. "I am honored by attacks from people who have addicted our children," he said Thursday. He and Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C, said the tobacco ads and others by an anti-abortion group were more about McCain's efforts to reform campaign financing than about his positions on tobacco and abortion. Candidates sharpen focus McCain and Bush have been sharpening their focus on each other. In a speech Wednesday to a college crowd at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, McCain portrayed himself as an anti-establishment politician. "All of the establishment is against me and I'm proud of it," the Arizona senator said to thunderous applause. "If you want business as usual, you don't want me as president." Bush told an audience at Bob Jones University in Greenville that it "feels a lot warmer here" before he laid out a message tailor made for this staunchly conservative state. Bush also picked up support from former Vice President Dan Quayle, who said at a news conference with the Texas governor: "We know that we have prosperity to- day, but let us be very clear that prosperity without values is no prosperity at all. Governor Bush has the values to be president of the United States." GOP from A-l Bush has edge oyer McCain in California believe, will favor Bush because he has the resources to spend vast amounts of money on TV commercials in a state that relies heavily on the electronic media for political information. Bush has spent millions on a national operation, and he has the endorsement of the GOP establishment here. But if McCain continues his successful run, particularly in South Carolina in two weeks, his candidacy could throw the GOP race in California into unprecedented chaos. Will rank-and-file California Republicans who now overwhelmingly support Bush jump ship in favor of McCain? f;if ill K nu.. .,t -w-ajrva Pit:1- ?' t ifPi New Hampshire. Do well in South Carolina. And win in California. That's the strategy. It's not more complicated than that." And McCain has made 23 campaign trips to California since early last year when he began preparing his presidential bid, according to a review of candidate schedules tallied by National Journal's Hotline. Luring the mavericks Bush is favored 2 to 1 over McCain in recent California polls. But McCain's campaign believes maverick California voters could again show an independent streak. Although California has far fewer independent voters by percentage than in New Hampshire, the "decline-to-state" category is the fastest-growing segment of the voting population. McCain tends to attract these people. "The political pundits would look at all the endorsements from the establishment, that California is a media-driven state, that they (the Bush campaign) have all the money," said Joel Fox, a California chair of the McCain 2000 campaign. "But I think there is an energy to the McCain campaign, and that fire could light up California and surprise a few people." California, some political analysts have speculated, could end up with a situation where McCain wins the popular vote here by attracting independent voters and even Democrats, but loses the race for delegates. Despite the new open primary, only votes from registered Republicans will count in selecting delegates for the national convention. Bush could get the delegates from rank-and-file Republicans, but McCain could get the overall vote from a mix of GOP, independent and Democratic voters. Secretary of State Bill Jones will segregate the election results, APSTEPHAN SAVOIA Sen. John McCain has his work cut out for him in California. so everyone will know the winner of the popular vote and the winner within each party. "Some people say if you can't win California, you can't be president," Fox said. "If the party then denies the nomination to the candidate who won California, I think there would be a lot of trouble and a lot of re-examining going on." In Bush's corner Despite the bigger-than-expec-ted loss in New Hampshire, the Bush campaign and its advisors in California believe everyone should just calm down. Bush has a county-by-county operation here, two campaign headquarters (McCain has none), endorsements from every major GOP lawmaker, and more money than any presidential candidate in history. "I think it's important not to draw erroneous conclusions," said state Sen. Jim Brulte, a Bush supporter. "The McCain campaign has the luxury of picking and choosing where they want to play. They've already written off Delaware (on Feb. 8), and they wrote off Iowa. "It's like they have a three-state strategy: New Hampshire, South Carolina and California. They have little or no organization in any other state If you pick and choose five or six states where you want to play, you can win every delegate in those states and still be hundreds of delegates short of the nomination." McCain has made no secret of his targeted campaign. At an Examiner editorial board meeting last July, McCain said, "Do well in Preliminary approval One test for McCain comes this weekend in Burlingame. He is scheduled to speak Saturday at the state GOP convention, which attracts the most ardent Republican activists. Will they embrace McCain or see him now as a serious threat to the candidate they thought they had already anointed Bush? Bush isn't showing up in Burlingame. In fact, Bush's February travel schedule doesn't show him coming to California through Feb. 25. He will be traveling in South Carolina, Delaware, Arizona, Michigan, Washington, North Dakota and Virginia all of which have primaries or caucuses before California's on March 7. Instead, Bush is sending his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, to the state Republican convention, and his father, former President George Bush, is expected to campaign in California next week. McCain has a limited California schedule after this weekend in Los Angeles, Burlingame and San Francisco. He is concentrating his efforts in South Carolina, which has 37 delegates, by stressing his military experience. The state has a large veteran population. As in California, Bush has a 2 to 1 advantage in polls taken in South Carolina and support from the GOP establishment. McCain hopes his big New Hampshire win will generate enthusiasm in South Carolina and spark contributions from across the country. He raised $500,000 in Internet donations in the hours after his victory was announced. "I think McCain's whole candidacy rests on South Carolina," said Alan Heslop, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College. "If McCain can't beat Bush there, then it seems that New Hampshire was simply a bump in the road for Bush."

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