Bush, Gore Clinch Nominations; Exit Polls Give Edge to Bush

July 7, 2008 - 8:25 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Little suspense, light turnout - and some good news for George W Bush in Tuesday's southern-states primaries: Exit polls indicate that the Texas Republican ran stronger among Democratic votes than Gore did among GOP voters.

Surprising no one, Texas Governor George W Bush and Vice President Al Gore clinched the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations, respectively, winning enough delegates in Tuesday's primaries to give them a clear shot at the White House.

Voters in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas voted on Tuesday. And moving beyond the delegate count, it's the story behind the scenes that may hold the most meaning for the candidates.

According to exit polls conducted by Voter News Service, just 6 percent of the voters in Tuesday's Republican primaries said they would vote for Gore in November, while twice as many Democrats said they would defect to Bush.

Other findings from Voter News Service: In Gore's home state of Tennessee, Republicans expressed dislike for their native son. Only 4 percent of the GOP voters said they would vote for the vice president in November, and more than 80 percent had an unfavorable opinion of their one-time senator.

In Bush's home state of Texas, half the Republicans and half the Democrats said Bush was more conservative as presidential candidate than he was in 1998, when he won a landslide re-election as governor. But -- as Bush tries to campaign on his education record -- nearly half of Texas Republicans said the governor had produced no meaningful school reforms.

In Louisiana, Democrat Bill Bradley - who dropped out of the presidential race last week -- was taking nearly three in 10 votes, running particularly strongly among whites, conservatives and the poorest voters.

By a 3-to-1 margin, those Bradley voters said they favored Bush over Gore in November.

Bush will accept his party's nomination at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, while Gore will become the official Democratic candidate at his Party's nominating convention in Los Angeles. Both conventions take place this summer.

There's an asterisk attached to the fact that both candidates hit the "delegate jackpot" on Tuesday. March 14. That is the earliest date in modern US political history that both parties' nominations have been decided.

It leaves the nation with an eight-month campaign leading up to the November 7 election.

Primaries and caucuses will run in another 28 states through June. But the stage is set: Bush versus Gore for the White House in November.

The presidential nominations were pretty much a foregone conclusion after last week's events, prompting Louisiana's Republican chairman to call yesterday "Stupid Tuesday," compared with last week's decisive "Super Tuesday" vote in 16 states. Last week, with Republican John McCain and Democrat Bill Bradley still in the race, voters turned out in record numbers and media coverage of the races was extensive.

After casting his vote in Tennessee Tuesday, Vice President Gore traveled to Florida for his victory declaration - a calculated move to win over voters in that important state.

He said he intends to carry Florida in November, even though Bush's younger brother Jeb is the governor of Florida.

"With tonight's victories in Florida, in Tennessee and Louisiana and Mississippi and Texas, with tonight's victories we have now won enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination, and I thank you," Gore told a cheering crowd at Tallahassee's Leon High School.

"Tonight is the night that we cross the delegate threshold, and I wanted to symbolize by my presence here that Florida is a key battleground state in the November elections," Gore said

He said Americans have a choice - keep the prosperity going, or go back "to the Bush-Quayle days of gigantic budget deficits and paralyzed democracy."

Addressing supporters in his home state of Texas, Bush predicted victory in the fall and linked Gore to President Clinton's scandals. "He can't distance himself from the president when, for eight years, he's served as cheerleader-in-chief." Bush said.

"Al Gore can't solve campaign finance problems when he symbolizes them." Bush said. "He can't talk about rebuilding the military when his administration has dismantled our military."

Both men admit this will be a tough race - and a long one.