Bradley, McCain set to bow out today
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and former New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bill Bradley are expected to end their 2000 presidential quests in announcements today, effectively ceding the race to their rivals, Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore.
As McCain huddled with top advisers at his Arizona vacation home Wednesday evening, a senior official said the senator realized that it would be "virtually impossible" for him to win the Republican nomination after his showing in the Super Tuesday primaries. This adviser said McCain would announce he is leaving the race, but another campaign aide told CNN it was possible that McCain would "suspend" campaign operations and not formally withdraw until Bush has secured the 1,034 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.
By suspending, instead of withdrawing, McCain leaves open the possibility of resuming his campaign if Bush were to stumble in the Mountain and Southern state primaries scheduled in the next six days. McCain's adviser said that was highly unlikely, adding that Bush would likely emerge from next Tuesday's primaries with enough delegates to secure the nomination.
On the Democratic side, Bradley also faced the stark reality of the Super Tuesday results, as advisers informed CNN that Bradley would abandon his bid Thursday and throw his support behind Vice President Gore.
McCain, who won just four New England states in 13 contests coast to coast, lost such delegate-rich prizes as New York, California and Ohio.
"John's a realist," said Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska), a McCain supporter. "John counts pretty well ... John's a very effective leader and politician, and mathematically you just can't get there."
"John's not going to put this country and this party through some high theater and high drama ... that's not his style, John is straightforward, says it plain and that's what he will do here, I suspect, in the next couple of days," Hagel said.
McCain's announcement Thursday comes a day before three more primaries in the Mountain States, including Colorado, where he just shelled out $200,000 for an 11th hour television ad blitz. Bigger primaries loom next Tuesday in several Southern States, including Bush's Texas stronghold and Florida, where Bush's younger brother Jeb is governor.
"Change isn't easy," he said later in his speech. "I've always said it would take time to change politics in this country, away from the distortions and negativity that have become the accepted norm for campaigns."
Bradley often presented Gore as an agent of the sort of politics he was out to change, and it is clear that no love has been lost between the two through a series of rough-and-tumble debates. And according to CNN correspondent Bob Franken, tension was high Tuesday night in Bradley's hotel suite as news of his series of defeats filtered in throughout the night.
A source in the room, described as a close friend of Bradley's who was nearby through much of the evening, said he had to convince the former lawmaker to place a call to Gore. Bradley had apparently wanted to wait until Wednesday to do so.
"His wife Ernestine was angry about the result," the source said, adding that "Bradley's daughters were crying." Despite the emotional turmoil in the room, Bradley remained "calm and serene -- the calm and serenity that drives people nuts," the source said.