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Press Bill Press is co-host of CNN's Crossfire. He is providing exclusive analysis to CNN during the election season.

Bill Press: New Hampshire earns admiration -- again

By Bill Press/CNN

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) - This is why we like New Hampshire. For a small state, it sure packs a big wallop -- and holds a lot of surprises.

Among Democrats, Al Gore won his second in a row -- in states that normally vote for insurgents -- and, in effect, nailed down the Democratic nomination.

Even though Bill Bradley will not go quietly, it will be almost impossible now for him to stop Gore. The next Democratic contest is the big March 7 showdown in California, New York, Ohio, Michigan and 12 other states, where Gore already has strong organizations and which -- with large numbers of minorities and union members -- are much more Gore-friendly than New Hampshire.

Bradley will continue in the race, at least until March 7, but his candidacy from now on will be largely a symbolic one, making him and his supporters feel good, but not much more.

The big story of New Hampshire is on the Republican side, where John McCain made history. He not only crushed George W. Bush, he changed the dynamics of this campaign, shook up the Republican establishment -- and may have given a whole new direction to the Republican party.

This was more than a personality contest. This was a landmark battle for the heart and soul of the Republican party. Would the GOP continue to sell supply-side economics, the same-old winning formula it's been offering up since 1980? Or would it offer a new product tailored for the 21st century?

It was a classic debate between old and new. Between tax cuts only and tax cuts plus. Or, as my friend Mark Shields puts it, between Easy Street and Main Street.

George Bush ran on "tax cuts only". His message was simple: my tax cut's bigger than his, therefore I am the better candidate.

John McCain ran on "tax cuts plus". His message was more complex: we can enjoy a healthy tax cut, but we must also take care of our obligations -- to fix Medicare, Social Security and pay down the national debt. Especially now that we have so much extra money available.

Poor George Bush. Faced with such a novel idea, the most he could do was sputter. "John McCain sounds like Al Gore", Bush kept repeating. His henchmen even accused McCain of being a Democrat. Or, worse yet, a liberal.

But the people of New Hampshire didn't buy it. For two reasons. One, they know McCain is a genuine conservative, with a known conservative voting record. Two, they know it's not a liberal idea to "fix the roof while the sun is shining". It's just plain common sense, and as conservative as you can get.

The significance of McCain's overwhelming victory can not be overstated. He didn't just beat Bush, he creamed him. He didn't just repudiate the old Republican way of thinking, he destroyed it.

Traveling on his "Straight Talk Express" last Sunday, I asked McCain how he would be able to get his message across the country, having confined himself almost exclusively to New Hampshire. The upbeat senator told me he wasn't sure he could win on Tuesday. But, if he did, he knew he would instantly have a huge megaphone with which to broadcast his message nationwide.

Well, McCain now has his megaphone. And his message to the Republican party is loud and clear: tax cuts alone don't cut it anymore. The American people are bigger than that. Repulbicans are bigger than that. If Republicans want to win, they must offer more than that.

Now the choice is clear. Bush represents the Republican party past. McCain represents the Republican party future. New Hampshire chose the future. Let the battle continue.

Bush, Bradley win early vote in Dixville Notch (2-01-00)

One day before the New Hampshire primary, candidates seek to sway voters (1-31-00)

GOP candidates on final swing through New Hampshire before Tuesday's primary (1-31-00)

Democratic rivals focus on voters for Tuesday's New Hampshire primary (1-31-00)

Final tracking poll shows McCain, Gore with solid leads (1-31-00) Record turnout forecast for New Hampshire primary (1-31-00)



See how quickly the primary and caucus season will take off with this calendar.


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Wednesday, February 2, 2000

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