What candidates must do next

Gore must maintain his momentum, while Bush has to fend off maverick

As suddenly as the blizzard sweeping through the Northeast, the Granite State's first-in-the-nation primary is now giving each of the remaining Republicans and Democrats running for president something special to prove.

Despite their convincing victories in the Jan. 24 Iowa caucuses, the two front-runners - Republican Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Democratic Vice President Al Gore - face a different set of pressures in the piney woods of New Hampshire.

Governor Bush must now surmount the challenge from the reform-minded Republican Sen. John McCain and from the social-conservative wing of his party, which gave millionaire publisher Steve Forbes and talk-show host Alan Keyes stronger-than-expected totals in the Iowa caucuses.

Analysts say Mr. Bush would be breathing a lot easier now if he had won even 45 percent in Iowa, as compared with the 41 percent he got. Mr. Forbes got 30 percent, Mr. Keyes 14, and Mr. McCain 5 without campaigning at all in the state. McCain's risky strategy - to skip Iowa, but fight hard in New Hampshire - will be put to the acid test in the Feb. 1 primary. The latest polls in New Hampshire put McCain slightly ahead of Bush.

On the Democratic side, Vice President Gore's resounding victory in Iowa puts his only challenger for the nomination, former Sen. Bill Bradley, in a do-or-die position in New Hampshire.

But even with his strong 64-to-35 Iowa win, Gore can't rest completely easy. Mr. Bradley trails Gore in New Hampshire polls by only a small margin, and if Bradley can bounce back, Gore won't look as invincible as he does now.

The big question mark hanging over New Hampshire is how its famously contrarian voters will behave Feb. 1. In modern politics, New Hampshire primary voters have often turned in dramatically different results from Iowa caucus-goers, in part because the religious right isn't nearly as strong in New Hampshire as in Iowa.

"Iowa doesn't always forecast the results of New Hampshire," says Jack Pitney, a political analyst at Claremont-McKenna College in California. "New Hampshirites have a fierce independent streak, and they don't like Iowans telling them how to vote."

Battle of the mavericks

The biggest impact of Iowa on New Hampshire could be in the "battle of the mavericks" - McCain and Bradley. Both men are fighting hard for the crucial pool of independent voters, who can decide right up until they enter the polling place which primary to vote in. Independents who have leaned toward Bradley may decide that he's finished, and go for the other upstart, McCain.

Bradley's best shot at wooing support may come Jan. 26, when he goes toe-to-toe with Gore in a televised debate. Voter News Service, which conducted an exit poll of Iowa caucus-goers, found that voters who had watched the Democratic debates went for Gore by a wide margin.

Bradley faces a classic underdog's dilemma: He needs to change tack, since his strategy thus far isn't working. But the question is exactly how to win enough voters to pull back into the race.

The Iowa exit poll showed that voters found Gore to be a stronger leader, and Bradley lacks the executive-branch rsum that gives Gore a natural advantage in the battle for the Democratic nomination, especially with a strong economy.

"Bradley faces a dilemma: Does he go negative?" says Del Ali, an independent pollster. "If he does, he risks looking desperate."

Gore, Mr. Ali adds, has an easy argument to make to New Hampshirites, who have prospered in the seven years of the Clinton-Gore administration. In 1992, unemployment in the state was at nearly 9 percent; now it's 2.8 percent.

For both Bradley and McCain, a strong finish in New Hampshire is also crucial for fund-raising. Bradley is currently competitive with Gore financially, but the money spigot could turn off if he loses in the first primary.

McCain already trails Bush badly in the money wars, and if the cash is to keep coming in, he needs to win New Hampshire, analysts say. The next big Republican primary, in South Carolina on Feb. 19, will be tough enough for McCain as it is, since that state typically votes with the Republican establishment, which strongly favors Bush.

Exit, stage Republican

Elsewhere in the Republican field, Iowa's results could push one or more candidates out of the race.

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah - who entered the race late and won only 1 percent in Iowa - was scheduled to drop out Jan. 26. Conservative activist Gary Bauer came in fourth in Iowa with 9 percent of the vote, and he clearly lost in the battle for his core constituency, religious conservatives.

It remains unclear how long he can last financially.

Of the other GOP candidates, "the top three have to be pleased," says independent political analyst Stuart Rothenberg. Forbes and Keyes exceeded expectations, and for different reasons, can stick with the race indefinitely.

Forbes is funding his campaign largely with his personal fortune, and Keyes - a firebrand orator with a loyal band of followers - is the kind of candidate who seems able to last on sheer inspiration.

"All Alan needs is a nickel and he can buy a ticket around the world," says Mr. Rothenberg.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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