Gore Swamps Bradley; Bush, Forbes, Keyes Top the GOP
(CNSNews.com) - With all precincts reporting, Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George Bush claimed victory in the Iowa caucus on Monday.
Gore beat his Democratic challenger, former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley, by a nearly two-to-one margin, 63 percent to 35 percent, with two percent uncommitted.
George W. Bush took 41 percent, with magazine publisher Steve Forbes coming in second at 30 percent.
Radio talk show host Alan Keyes, who has been surging in polls in the past week, captured 14 percent of the vote. Observers have suggested that the top three Republicans, plus Arizona Senator John McCain - who skipped the caucus to concentrate scant resources on the New Hampshire primary - will make it to the next round of voting.
Former Family Research Center head Gary Bauer received nine percent of the votes, McCain received five percent, and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch received less than one percent.
Voting began at 7 p.m. local time, and turnout was light.
Bush told supporters that he was "humbled and honored" at the results, adding, "Tonight marks the beginning of the end of the Clinton era. . . . Tonight's record-shattering victory is the victory of a message that is conservative and compassionate."
Keyes's third place finish was the biggest surprise of the night, and he told reporters that he believes it's "really important because when we get down to the general election, we're not just going to have somebody out there taking a stand. It's going to have to be someone who can defend that stand and who can persuade the American people to support it."
Forbes told supporters in Des Moines that it was "a great night. . . . This was a campaign of principles, and your faith has been vindicated tonight."
Forbes spokesperson Greg Mueller said in a release that Bush's somewhat lower than expected tally indicates that the Texas Governor "will find it tough going in New Hampshire" and said that Bush could finish third in New Hampshire after Forbes and McCain.
Hatch said in a statement that he "thoroughly enjoyed campaigning in Iowa . . . and look forward to returning to New Hampshire this week." Hatch was not in Iowa Monday night, because of the opening of the Senate session earlier that day.
On CNN's Larry King Live, McCain joked that his five percent finish was "five percent more than I thought I was going to get." McCain added that "the playoffs . . . are going to begin tomorrow," referring to the last week of campaigning before the February 1st New Hampshire primary.
While Bush's 42 percent was less than campaign aides had hoped for, one poll did indicate the breadth of his support: Bush actually finished first among self-identified religious conservatives, taking 35 percent of that key Iowa voting block. Forbes finished second among that group at 24 percent, while Keyes took 21 percent. Bauer finished a distant fourth among religious conservatives.
Among self-identified moderate Republicans, Bush took 48 percent.
On the Democratic side, Gore appeared before supporters with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and his wife, Tipper.
"My message to you this evening is very simple," said Gore. "We've just begun to fight."
"The question to ask the American people is, can we do better? I believe the answer is yes. . . . I want to fight for you, for your family, for your community, for your future," said Gore.
In a speech to supporters, Bradley congratulated Gore for his victory, adding to laughs from the crowd, "He's an opponent that is tough, and I know that I'll be seeing a lot of him in the next couple of weeks."
Bradley said that running for president "requires a mixture of humility and confidence. . . . Tonight, I have a little more humility, and a lot of confidence that I can do the job. . . . Considering where I started, we've done extraordinarily well."
Younger voters, voters who were dissatisfied with the President Bill Clinton, and self-identified liberals tended to vote for Bradley. Older voters, voters who approved of President Clinton, and voters who ranked Social Security, health care, and education among their priorities voted for Gore.