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