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Wednesday, 1 March, 2000, 22:16 GMT
Analysis: Bush on the rise
George W Bush
George W Bush's latest slogan: "Uniter not a divider"
By Paul Reynolds in Washington

Another week, another result, another winner.

Last time it was Arizona Senator John McCain with victories in Michigan and his home state.

This time, it is Texas Governor George Bush, who picked up a hat-trick in Virginia, Washington state, and North Dakota.

The roller coaster ride for the Republican nomination goes on and heads now to Super Tuesday, 7 March, when 16 states hold their contests, among them the big prizes of California, New York and Ohio.

Dangerous predictions

I hesitate to say that Super Tuesday will be decisive. Nothing has been decisive on the Republican side so far. Conventional wisdom (i.e. political pundits) has been wrong so often that predictions are dangerous.

But certainly, Tuesday 29 February, was a good day for George Bush.

Not only did he win in Virginia, he won even more convincingly in Washington, where Mr McCain had hoped to do well. And he managed to turn a fierce attack Mr McCain had made against conservative Christians to his own advantage.

He presented himself as a "uniter not a divider".

What's in a slogan?

This is his third slogan of the campaign, though actually it's an old one he has pressed into service again. He started off as a "compassionate conservative" and moved onto being a "reformer with results".

Senator
McCain's strength is also his weakness - he likes a confrontation
This rallied loyal Republicans, who tend to follow Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment that "Thou shalt not speak ill of fellow Republicans".

And Mr McCain could not bring out enough Independents and Democrats to make the difference.

So George Bush is trying to revert to what made him such a strong candidate to start with - his record in Texas as a Republican who can win the support of minorities like Latinos and African-Americans and even Democrats.

Veering right

His campaign had gone disastrously wrong when, in his desperation to win South Carolina after a bad loss in New Hampshire, he got himself boxed in on the right.

Vice President Al Gore
Gore swamped Bill Bradley
Mr Bush has not been a brilliant candidate, but his opponents have underestimated him before. When he was running for governor of Texas, his opponent, the formidable incumbent, Anne Richards, dismissed him as a "shrub".

Now he is governor and she is just another television pundit.

The McCain insurgency

What now for John McCain? His insurgency has been thrown back onto the defensive and he needs to win either New York or California on Tuesday to make a comeback.

Mr McCain's strength is also his weakness. He likes confrontation. His whole life and career is evidence of that. His campaign has been determined by it.

Now he is confronting part of his own party. And his own party doesn't much like it. He needs to win them back.

Decisive for the Democrats

For the Democrats, Super Tuesday could be decisive.

It looks as if former senator, basketball star and Oxford graduate Bill Bradley is about to be defeated. He was swamped by Vice-President Al Gore in the state of Washington, where Mr Bradley had put in a huge effort to try to win something at least. He failed.

Bill Bradley
Bradley: US elections are not won by big ideas
Next Tuesday, Mr Gore could deliver the knock out. Mr Bradley ran an idealistic campaign which basically asked people to vote for others, not themselves. This is not how most elections are won.

But some of his "big ideas" as he called them, will influence future policy.

It is surprising to outsiders, for example, that so many Americans are still denied access, through lack of insurance, to the impressive medical system that serves the well covered.

America, it seems, prosperous at home and at peace abroad, does not want "big ideas".

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See also:

29 Feb 00 |  Americas
Bush regains momentum
28 Feb 00 |  Americas
Bush closes the gap
23 Feb 00 |  Americas
McCain back in the race
04 Jan 00 |  Profiles
John McCain: Ready-made war hero
07 Jan 00 |  States
Virginia
07 Jan 00 |  States
Washington
07 Jan 00 |  States
North Dakota
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