Update ? Bush Wins Delaware Primary, McCain "Surprised

July 7, 2008 - 8:25 PM

Adds Bush's Comments of Wednesday morning, reaction to Forbes departure

(CNSNews.com) - The Delaware Republican primary ended with a boost for George W Bush, a surprise for John McCain, and such a disappointment for Steve Forbes that he's planning to quit the race.

Bush came in first, with 51 percent, or 15,102 votes; McCain, who never even campaigned in Delaware, ended up with 25 percent (7,547 votes); and Steve Forbes, who spent millions of dollars courting voters, received only 20 percent support (5,857). Republican Alan Keyes was a distant fourth, with only 4 percent (1,138 votes).

Bush visited Delaware five times, he had the support of what the press calls the Party establishment, and he spent heavily on television advertising. His first-place finish in Delaware was pretty much taken for granted until last week's New Hampshire primary established John McCain as a serious threat to his candidacy.

"I thank the people of Delaware for their vote of confidence," Bush said while campaigning Tuesday night in New Hampshire. "I think it's going to be helpful for people in South Carolina to see the people of Delaware listened ... and made their decision."

The big story in Delaware involves publisher Steve Forbes, who has been spending his personal fortune in pursuit of a goal that seems ever more elusive. Forbes campaigned in Delaware twelve times and he won there in 1996. He was counting on a repeat performance Tuesday to give some badly needed momentum to his presidential bid.

Tuesday night, a spokesman said Forbes would not pull out of the race, but by Wednesday morning, CNSNews.com confirmed reports that Forbes was indeed quitting. The formal announcement is expected Thursday.

Forbes cancelled today's planned appearances in Michigan, and he's reportedly informed his staff that he's made up his mind. He would be the seventh Republican to quit the race since it began - many months before last week's New Hampshire primary.

A second place finish was sweet for Arizona Sen. John McCain, who spent no time and no money in Delaware. "I'm extremely surprised and pleased that we'd get that kind of vote in a state we never visited," McCain said Tuesday night in Charleston, South Carolina. "It's bound to give us a boost."

It's been one boost after another for McCain after he won the New Hampshire primary. In fact, he appears on the covers of three big newsmagazines this week - Time, Newsweek, and US News and World Report.

In a sarcastic reference to all the McCain publicity, George W. Bush noted that he won the Delaware vote "quite substantially and I'm confident the news media will put me on the cover of every magazine."

In an interview on the NBC's Today show Wednesday, George W. Bush played up his victory in Delaware: "I think it's part of an overall picture," he said. "Obviously the national press is discounting the Delaware primary somewhat. I don't discount it. I think it's important ... but I understand I've got a fight on my hands [in SC]."

Bush, noting that McCain got zero Delaware delegates while he got all 12, said every candidate tries to put a good face on the results. "One thing that Sen. McCain had going for him was that he'd come off a big win in NH, he was on the cover of every major news magazine, he was in the news a lot, so you had a lot of good publicity."

Harping on his recently introduced "reformer image," Bush said, "I've got to do a better job of defining myself ... I'm a reformer with results. In other words, I have reformed schools, and the results show it in the state of Texas; I've reformed the tort laws, and the results show it in the state of Texas; and I need to take that message of being a reformer with results to the people of SC and say, 'Give me a chance to come into Washington and clean up the mess in Washington DC'."

Bush said McCain is part of the Washington DC establishment who has been there long enough to become a powerful committee chairman.

"Somehow I got defined as the insider and he got defined as the outsider, and those days are over with," Bush insisted. He said he's now "campaigning his heart out," making fewer stump speeches and spending more time explaining his record as Texas governor.

The next big battle comes February 19 in South Carolina, where Bush has released new advertisements linking McCain to lobbyists. "It's time the rest of the nation learns about the ... McCain we know," says one advertisement.

McCain is running his own ads in South Carolina, asking voters, "Do we really want another politician in the White House that we can't trust?"

Bush is particularly riled by a McCain ad accusing him of spending all the surplus on tax cuts:

"I guess it was bound to happen," intones McCain in the advertisement, with music playing in the background. "Governor Bush's campaign is getting desperate with a negative ad about me. The fact is, I'll use the surplus money to fix Social Security, cut your taxes, pay down the debt. Governor Bush uses all the money for tax cuts, without one new penny for Social Security or the debt. His ad twists the truth like Clinton. We're all pretty tired of that. As president, I'll be conservative and always tell you the truth, no matter what."

In the television interview, Bush blasted back: "That's just not the truth," he said, explaining what his plan would do: "There are four trillion dollars in [the] projected surplus over ten years. Two trillion of it goes to Social Security and debt repayment, and $1 trillion, or a quarter of the surplus, goes to give people their money back."

"To compare me with Clinton is beyond the pale, as far as I'm concerned," Bush said.

The McCain ad so angered Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC), a Bush supporter, that Thurmond issued a statement saying, "There is no excuse for the negative ads that Sen. McCain's strategists and politicos are running in South Carolina" However, Sen. Thurmond, at 98 years old, is very much the entrenched, "establishment" type of Republican that McCain is alienating - apparently, to his own benefit with the voters.

The polls indicate the South Carolina primary will be another close race. Before New Hampshire, Bush had a 20-point lead in the Palmetto State, but a Washington Post/ABC poll released Tuesday shows Bush leading McCain among likely SC primary voters by just 48-43 percent. However, that poll was taken before word of Forbe's impending departure came out.

McCain's star is rising in other states as well. In New York, the latest Marist College poll shows Bush leading McCain 48-39 percent among likely GOP voters. McCain polled only 15 percent in New York in a Marist poll in December. He's also closing the gap in California and Michigan.

McCain, meanwhile, is turning all the buzz about him into cash and volunteers by running an effective Internet campaign. A political scientist quoted in Wednesday's Washington Post says McCain's campaign shows that the Internet lets politicians benefit from momentum as never before.

According to the newspaper, in the one week since McCain won the New Hampshire Republican primary, he's raised $2.2 million over the Internet, recruited 26,000 new volunteers, and - according to the Post - "rewritten the rules for political campaigning in the cyber age."