ET (Election Topic) - Candidates Say Crossover Voters Hold Key on Saturdaygreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
By B. DRUMMOND AYRES Jr. and FRANK BRUNI
REENWOOD, S.C., Feb. 14 -- With polls indicating a race down to the wire in the Republican presidential primary on Saturday, Senator John McCain of Arizona and Gov. George W. Bush of Texas began the final week of campaigning by pleading with independents and Democrats to show up on Election Day and provide victory's edge.
"I ask you, I beg you," Mr. McCain said at a lunchtime rally attended by 500 people, "whether you're Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or vegetarian, get out and get your friends out. We've got to get the greatest turnout in this state's history so that I can serve my country once more.".
Crossover voting is permitted in South Carolina primaries, as it was in the New Hampshire primary that was won by Mr. McCain on Feb. 1, and Mr. Bush, campaigning in Saluda, confessed that he feared Democratic crossovers might hurt him on Saturday..
"I'm a little concerned," he said. "I just don't want Democrats coming in to vote against me because they think my opponent will be easier to beat in November.".
The latest poll of South Carolina voters, released today by The Los Angeles Times, showed Mr. McCain and Mr. Bush still essentially in a tie. So crossover votes might very well decide the outcome..
As Mr. McCain worked this state's northwest quadrant today with a series of rallies and town hall meetings, he hammered the crossover and turnout issue at every stop and said several times that he sensed his plea was having effect..
"I reach out to everybody," he said during a rally in Anderson, where 400 people showed up. "There's something going on in this campaign that I saw in New Hampshire at the end that enabled us to win with the best turnout ever. I'm exuberant. I'm exhilarated. I believe we can win.".
The crowd cheered loudly..
"Our cause is just," he said. "We do not fear attacks. What we know is that our message is correct and we will prevail." .
When Mr. McCain started the final week in South Carolina, he stuck with the same themes that he adopted late last week, accusing Mr. Bush, though seldom by name, of attacking him unfairly and distorting his views, then he compared himself to Luke Skywalker, the "Star Wars" hero who frequently found himself under heavy fire from all directions. .
Under no circumstances, Mr. McCain promised, would he engage during the rest of the contest in negative campaigning. .
He made no mention of his decision late last week to pull an advertisement in which he likened Mr. Bush to Mr. Clinton on the issue of honesty, an commercial for which he was severely criticized..
"Whether we win or lose," he told the crowd in Anderson, "we will not run any negative ads in this campaign. This kind of savagery is not necessary.".
In Saluda, Mr. Bush repeated his criticism of Mr. McCain's votes in the Senate for public financing of Congressional elections and defended his own attacks on that subject..
"It's not savagery," Mr. Bush said. "It's what we call full exposure. Full disclosure." .
"I think it's important for us and the Republican Party to understand that our candidate is going to have to weather a savaging attack if Al Gore is the nominee," Mr. Bush said. "The idea of me pointing out a major difference certainly is not savaging. It is a difference of opinion, and I'm going to continue talking about differences of opinion.".
When asked what approached he would take in the debate with Mr. McCain on Tuesday night, he said, "I'll be short of savagery." .
At a ceremony in Anderson at which he cut a ribbon to inaugurate the opening of a criminal justice center, Mr. McCain struck a similar note. .
"This campaign is being run on vision and hope," he declared. "We're not having anything to do with negative campaigning.".
While Mr. McCain did not criticize Mr. Bush by name, he was unusually pointed and personal in his criticism of President Clinton, as was Representative Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who has been accompanying Mr. McCain on many of his trips around the state and who was a leader of the effort to impeach Mr. Clinton..
Senator McCain said Mr. Clinton had hurt the nation with his conduct in the White House, especially, he charged, by turning the Lincoln Bedroom into "a Motel 6" for campaign contributors and by failing to be honest about the affair with Monica S. Lewinsky. He also accused the president, and by implication Vice President Al Gore, of shortchanging the nation on military funding and by caving in on pork barrel issues..
"My friends," he said at every stop, "I intend to beat Al Gore like a drum. And I promise you this: When I get to the White House, I will never lie to you.".
Mr. Graham, introducing Mr. McCain, said of Mr. Clinton: "Times are good in this country now, very good. But we're hurting because a man in the White House has left us a wounded nation. We need to get healed."
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