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WorldView

Bradley, Gore Face Off at California Convention; McCain Continues to Make Up Ground in South Carolina

Aired February 12, 2000 - 10:03 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: Depending on who you talk to, Pat Choate either is or isn't the interim chairman of the Reform Party's national committee. Jack Gargan was ousted Saturday during a raucous committee meeting in Nashville.

Gargan says that vote to remove him as chairman doesn't count because he never called the meeting to order. the uproar comes on day after Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura announced he was leaving the party because it was, in his words, "hopelessly dysfunctional."

No such fireworks at the California Democratic convention.

CNN's Mark Potter reports Vice President Al Gore and Senator Bill Bradley are courting voters there in hopes of picking up delegates in the state's upcoming primary.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bill Bradley came to the California Democratic Party convention hoping to stem the Gore tide. Senator Bradley is way behind in the polls here and received a somewhat tepid response from the crowd.

In his address, Mr. Bradley indirectly stressed what he has said is Al Gore's vulnerability on the campaign finance issue by noting the recent success of Republican John McCain.

BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's moving because he's standing up for reform. And if we don't stand up for reform, we have a special vulnerability. Why is that? Because when Democrats have fund-raising scandals, it's different. republicans are expected to be in the pockets of special interests.

POTTER: But this was clearly Vice President Gore's convention. He is supported by California Governor Gray Davis and by most of the Democratic Party leadership. Mr. Gore appeared energized, and the convention crowd was clearly on his side.

In his remarks he accused Bill Bradley of trying to divide the Democratic Party.

ALBERT A. GORE JR., VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The real Democrat is not the one who seems to be taking his talking points from the Republican National Committee.

POTTER: He also criticized Mr. Bradley for retiring from the U.S. Senate in 1996 rather than staying to help the Clinton-Gore administration fight the Republicans in Congress.

GORE: Senator Bradley seemed to suffer from a kind of Demo- pessimism. But I tell you today, Senator Bradley gave up too soon. We stayed and fought. Democrats stood together. we were united.

POTTER (on camera): This is an important time in the Democratic presidential contest. The critical March 7th primaries are little more than three weeks away now, and California is a major battleground with more nominating delegates than any other state.

Mark Potter, CNN, San Jose, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HALL: Meanwhile, the Republican candidates are spending their time on the campaign trail in South Carolina.

CNN's John King reports it's a frustrating time for the George W. Bush camp as Senator John McCain's campaign appears to pick up speed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: OK, guys, you ready? Fire it up.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seven days to the finish line in South Carolina and John McCain is thinking upset.

REP. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Ladies and gentlemen, if we win this election one week from today for John McCain, he will be the next president of the United States.

KING: George W. Bush led by more than 20 points here not long ago, but now the polls show a close race heading into the final week.

The Texas governor began his day courting South Carolina's Christian conservative vote.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Faith to me is strength. It puts life in perspective. I recognize that I'm a humble sinner and I've sought redemption.

KING: This exchange with a GOP state senator after the event captured the frustration of the Bush camp.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no explanation why some of the religious conservatives particularly are off with that guy. I mean, you all haven't even hit his soft spots.

BUSH: I know, and we're going to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what they need to do? Somebody needs to expose them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She wants to get a picture.

BUSH: I'm not going to do it on TV.

KING: McCain's hand-to-hand encounters included several voters who said they had received phone calls labeling McCain a liar and -- perhaps even worse in a Republican primary -- a liberal. But this Bush supporter came to a McCain town hall to deny any Bush campaign role in making inappropriate calls.

The Arizona senator sounded unconvinced.

MCCAIN: Governor Bush can tell his surrogates who are attacking me to stop, he can stop running his negative ads that are on right now.

KING: McCain is playing to his strengths in the closing days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You and I have something in common, and you're my man.

MCCAIN: Thank you, sir. Thank you.

KING: The former Vietnam prisoner of war swapped stories with veterans and promises to raise the pay and moral of those serving now.

MCCAIN: There will be no food-stamp Army when I'm president of the United States, I promise you that.

KING: McCain hopes South Carolina's deep military tradition translates into overwhelming support for his campaign and a come-from- behind victory that proves his big New Hampshire win was no fluke.

John King, CNN, Fort Mill, South Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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