Post-Super Tuesday poll: Now what?

Fran Lebowitz, Lucianne Goldberg, David Horowitz, Andrew Sullivan and others make sense of the results.

By Compiled by Salon staff
March 8, 2000 4:36PM (UTC)
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Fran Lebowitz, essayist

I don't think there's anything that
surprising about who won. Political
races always seem to come down to an
issue of character. We all wish we had
so little competition. I have more
competition when I'm alone.

I'm not surprised with what happened to
John McCain when he started winning and
I'm not surprised with what happened
after. If it was all truly up to the
people, it would most certainly have
been McCain and it might even have been
Bradley who won. But it was already
locked in before time by the parties.
And, in truth, there are groups of
people, union people, churchgoers,
people who belong to things. There are
more of those people than most New
Yorkers realize, and they all vote


Where I live, the voting booths were
broken. The Republican ballot was very
small -- I looked at the ballot, it was
on the table -- and the delegates were
very difficult to read. On the
Democratic ballot the print was bigger,
but the directions were very unclear. I
asked one of the poll workers -- all of
whom were between the age of 100 and 150
-- how many delegates we could vote for,
and they said I could choose "all." I
figured it all out the best I could, but
I have no doubt that no one will ever
open my paper ballot. And that makes me
mad, since I made a special trip to go
and I dont even like to go out in the
daylight. And what am I paying taxes
for, anyway, if we dont even get
working voting booths?

I was very angry by it. I asked how long
they had been broken, and they said they
were delivered broken. Then they said
they had been waiting all day for
someone to come out and fix it. I dont
know who is responsible for it -- I
suspect it's Time-Warner Cable but my
first thought was, "This is deliberate.
It's a [Midtown] precinct, a liberal
voting precinct." I know, you think that
seems old-fashioned. But women still get
men to marry them by getting pregnant,
and that seems old-fashioned to me, too.

I voted for Bill Bradley. But the whole
Bill Bradley thing seemed totally
invented. When there was hope for him at
one point, it didn't seem real. Then
people started reporting about how bad
he was doing, how he was giving bad
speeches. I mean, he's not Oscar Wilde,
but we knew that. He's not that witty.
It seemed like he was always the same. I
prefer him to Gore because he's more
liberal -- not that he's so liberal,
everything has moved so far to the right
that the most liberal politicians are
really just Rockefeller Republicans.
Bradley is just as far left as you can
get, and at least he's not always
talking only to people who are only
worried about making more money.


I think there's a high chance Bush will
get it. I think people, no matter what
evidence is before the eyes of the
public, always think the Republicans are
better for the economy. Plus, he's just
a filthy campaigner. And it works. Not
because people like it, but because they
seem totally unaware. Plus, he's boyish
and that goes over well. It's a
puppy-loving country, they give Oscars
to child actors. They like that sort of

The truth is, and I can say this because
I'm not running for anything, the people
are wrong. My fellow Americans are
wrong. They're greedy, they're
solipsistic, and it's all their fault.
Maybe they get the candidates that they
want. I don't.

Phyllis Schlafly, president of the
conservative Eagle Forum

I think the results were expected. I
don't think they were any surprise.
I think Bradley's campaign fizzled and
collapsed because he tried to make
himself the candidate to the left of
Gore, and there really isn't much room
there. I know he's skinny, but it's
still hard to occupy a perch to the
left of Gore. And that isn't the way
this country is going, even in the
Democratic party.


I think Gore's views are too left wing
for America, and I don't think the
American people ever voluntarily choose
the left-wing or liberal candidate.

In the Republican party, I think that
McCain, likewise, self-destructed. He
certainly had an appeal that attracted
people in the beginning. But his
anger didn't come across well. People
don't want to elect an angry
candidate. His attacks on Pat Robertson
and Jerry Falwell boomeranged on
him, and they didn't make any sense.
Jerry Falwell hasn't said anything
political in six or seven years.


It didn't just affect the religious
right; it turned other people off. I
don't think they want a candidate to
make an all out attack on somebody's
religion. I think that was very hurtful
to him. I think there are many
Republicans who voted for George Bush
because they're just so turned off by

But McCain did have some good points.
His anti-establishment campaign was
attractive to a lot of people, but he
just talked out of both sides of his
mouth. He enjoyed the full support of
the media establishment. Clearly he
was a media candidate. At the same time,
he was trying to portray himself
as anti-establishment.

He attacked campaign finance methods and
negative campaigning, both of
which he was engaged in himself. He
accepted all kinds of corporate money,
and he engaged in negative campaigning.
His negative attacks on Bush were
much greater and more hurtful than
Bush's negative attacks on McCain. So it
just didn't ring true. I think I heard
last night that the polling from
California indicated that too. I thought
that was very smart of the
California voters.


I think McCain's attacks on Bush, such
as attacking Bush as anti-Catholic, were
much more hurtful than anything Bush
said about McCain. When he was on
"Meet the Press" last Sunday, and he
said that he did not call Bush
anti-Catholic, all I could see was his
face morphing into Bill Clinton's
saying "I did not have sexual relations
with that woman." Because it was
clear that McCain was calling Bush
anti-Catholic. He was just parsing the
words like Clinton.

I'm hoping that Clinton fatigue will be
the overriding issue. It's
interesting how smart people like Ed
Koch and [Patrick] Moynihan backed
Bradley because they thought Gore was
too tarred by Clinton. I think
Bradley blew it by going left. I mean
spending two weeks trying to argue
who was more pro-abortion -- Gore or
Bradley -- was just a dead-end argument.
Its just really very difficult to be
more pro-abortion than Al Gore. That
argument just doesn't get you anywhere.

Another defect in McCain's campaign was
trying to paint himself as a
victim. Now we all know he was a victim
in Vietnam, but we're a little
tired of hearing how he's a victim in
politics. It isn't a saleable image.


I really think that McCain and Bradley
self-destructed. It wasn't so much
a Bush-Gore win as it was they fizzled.

Ann Coulter, columnist for George

I'm delighted that the media's candidate
is going down in flames, though he held
up well in Ben & Jerry country
[Vermont]. The only reason, I think,
that the media is refusing to call New
York for Bush right now [Tuesday night,
10 p.m. EST] is that they just hate to
see McCain lose.

Meanwhile, there's Bradley, who
supposedly all of the smart Democrats I
know really were behind. But I mean,
look, this is Mr. 480 on his verbal SATs
and he's considered the cerebral
candidate. The New York Times gave him
credit the other day for raising three
important issues during the campaign:
universal health care, gun control and
campaign reform. I sat down and did a
Lexis-Nexis search on each of those
three issues and found that each one
brought up more stories than [the
service] could read. And I mean, what
did Congress spend all it's time last
year discussing anyway besides gun
control and campaign finance reform?
They didn't get anywhere, but still,
that's all they were talking about. And
did everybody suddenly forget Hillary's
health care plan?

The greatest thing is that if Bush does
lose Connecticut it will help him to
hate people like his father. He doesn't
need the support of moderate New England
conservatives. We can survive without
the support of Christine Todd Whitman
and the precious suburban soccer moms.
He needs to win big states like Texas
and Florida. So it's great for Bush to
lose the Northeast Republicans, he
doesn't need them. And it's probably
good for him that the Democrats seem to
be spending so much time going after the
black vote so hard, because they'll win
them anyway, and then Bush can go after
the Hispanic vote.


I also think Laura Bush is an asset to
him. She's pretty, but there's also
something nice and wholesome about her,
where Cindy McCain, beyond being pretty,
seems sort of predatory; I mean she's
already stolen one womans husband: John

And finally [with Bush popular among
women voters] I can appreciate the
gender gap, now that it's working in our
favor. Suddenly I understand the value
of the "women's vote." Chicks like a
cute, dumb guy. I also like Bush because
he seems a little nastier than his
father. That's my soft spot.

Sean Wilentz, Dayton-Stockton
professor of history at Princeton
University and a contributing editor to
the New Republic

It's over. The entire race for the
nomination on both sides is done. The
general election began last night. This
was fated from the beginning -- I
didn't think Bradley or McCain had
much of a chance. You know, as
George Washington Plunkett once said,
"Reform is like morning glories, they
look great early in the day and then
they disappear." My good friend E.J.
Dionne has talked about how the American
people want the birth of an
anti-party party; I just don't see it. I
think what's happened is we're
seeing regular politics restored to this
country. The fact is, both Bradley
and McCain lost. That's the outstanding
fact. Politics is about who wins
and loses. The rest is of marginal
interest. Republicans love Bush and
Democrats love Gore. You ultimately have
to win your party's voters in
order to get the nomination in the
primary system. Voil`.


The Democratic primaries have been far
less bitter than the Republican
primaries, so they enter this long phase
between the primaries and the
conventions much more united than the
Republicans, who just went through a
religious war. A lot of how things play
out will depend on McCain. He
launched what could become a real
challenge to what the base of the
Republican Party is doing. If he's good
and bitter, he could make it very
hard for Bush to create the center-right
base he needs to contest the
election against Gore and the
center-left. The Democrats have created
center-left party. But the Republicans
have a long way to go to re-create
themselves as a center-right party. I
think the primaries showed they can't
do it. That's where most Americans fall,
but the Republicans have moved far
to the right. McCain could take his
crusade forward, all the way to the
convention, to demand a place at the
table within the party as a price for
not bolting. I don't think he'll do it,
but it is a chip. He has a certain
number of delegates he could hold on to
in order to speak at the
convention. He could also just release
all of his delegates to Bush and
say, "We fought a good fight and we will
continue to fight down the line;
but right now Bush is the winner and I
don't want to mess up the party."

Overall, the Republican Party is much
too far to the right. Bush's efforts
to try to bring the party closer to the
center really resulted in hell
during the past three weeks because he
had to embrace his party in order to
win. He's going to try his damnedest to
go back to the center, but will it
wash? The damage has been done.

The Republicans are going to throw
Gore's campaign finance abuses and Al
Sharpton at him. Bush will say he's
brave and offer tax cuts, but basically
he's going to try to run against
Clinton, who he thinks has been a
disgrace. The media keeps telling him
he's right, but they're wrong. Look
what happened to Gore after he started
embracing Clinton again: He kicked
butt! I think Americans are going to
accept Gore as the receptacle of
everything they like about Clinton.

Lucianne Goldberg, literary agent and
founder of Lucianne.


I didn't think Bush was going to win
quite as big as he did. But it would
have been an unheard of miracle if
McCain had pulled this off. I can
certainly appreciate the moaning and
groaning today, that a whole feast of
column items and subjects is gone. The
media was drunk on McCain -- he was such
good copy. There's no such thing as a
vacuum. Someone's going to fill it, but
I don't know who it's going to be. It
just looks kind of bleak right now.
Politics has now become entertainment.
Look how desperate we were when we tried
to make something out of Trump, who was
a joke. Even he knew it was a joke.

But I kind of miss McCain because he's
really like watching a firecracker fuse
burning. When's he going to go kaboom
and blow up the landscape? It does look
like that religious-right stuff
backfired on him. When it was happening,
it was exhilarating, it was something
new, somebody being tough. We're totally
wimped out now, there are no men around.
It's scary. McCain was manly, I don't
know how much of a man he was. You'd
have to be married to him or date him
for a long time to know that. But he
certainly was tough-minded, and people
liked that. But he picked on two
pathetic old toothless tigers -- I mean
Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson are a
threat? They're not scary, they're just
dull. There are better people to pick
on. [They're just a threat to Tinky
Winky] and the handbag business.

Bush is either going to flop or fly. I
hope he's a quick learner because he's
got a lot to learn -- including learning
to speak the English language. Today,
there's a whole e-mail of his quotes
going around and it's hilarious. I'm a
good conservative, so I'm not going to
pile on by sending it to you. He has to
stop trying to please everybody.

Just the thought of this much more time
having to listen to Gore ... I think
we're in Gore fatigue now, and the man
hasn't even been elected. It seems like
he's been running and shouting forever,
and he's growing breasts, which I find
amazing. Look at his T-shirts. I know
they're supposed to be pecs or abs or
whatever those are, but it looks odd.
He's so boring. [But] Tipper didn't slap
back the Prozac [last night] and she was
bouncy and cute and she's gained a
little weight and she looks good. Of the
whole crowd, I like Tipper the best.
She's a good person.

Joseph Nye, dean of the Kennedy School
of Government at Harvard University

The primary season was too early, which
means the whole election is going
to be too long. People are going to get
a little bit tired of it, so that
some of the early participation may
dwindle a bit as Bush and Gore beat up
on each other. So I think that the front
end loading of it essentially got
excitement and participation at the
beginning, but it may be at the cost of
participation later on.

The Republicans may want to rethink open
primaries. The race with John
McCain cost him a lot more than $65
million. McCain was able to push Bush
out of the center and more to the right.
And that may cost Bush the
general election.

If you believe the American public
opinion forms a bell-shaped curve with
most people in the center, but that the
party activists are out on the
wings, left and right for the two
parties, the interesting effect of the
primaries is that Bradley pushed Gore
toward the center, which positions him
for the general election. McCain pushed
Bush toward the right, which
pushes him out of where he wants to be
for the general election. So I
think the Republicans may want to
rethink open primaries in the sense of
somebody comes in and pushes the
preferred candidate to the right. This
has hurt, not helped.

The Republicans expected a coronation
and they got a fight. And the fight
they got positioned their candidate the
wrong way. I think that what Bush
had going for him in the early days was
that he was electable. Therefore
when he lost early, it undercut what he
had going for him.

It's worth noticing that Gore, who was
widely viewed as the Democratic
candidate early on, was not hurt by
being chosen early. If anything, the
challenge from Bradley was an enormous
help. The conventional wisdom six
months ago was that Gore couldn't win.
The word "boring" and Gore were
always used together. And within six
months, that's vanished. So being an
early favorite need not be a bad thing.
But in both cases, a competition
was better than a coronation. But the
competition did more for Gore than
it did for Bush.

Bradley didn't help on issues like gays
in the military, but other issues
like health care, a very popular issue,
Gore was able to position himself
as practical. He was able to say "I
agree with Bradley that this is a top
issue, but I have a practical way to do
it and he doesn't." And that was
one of the major issues that they
debated, and that positioned Gore as a
pragmatic New Democrat, not the old
fashioned liberal Democrat who thinks
"solve it all at once."

I think that Gore wants the education
issue, but I'm not sure he's been
able to capture it. I think it's too
early to tell on that one. We have
to listen to the Bush-Gore debate before
we can answer that.

I think Bush is unlikely to accept
[Gore's offer of twice weekly debates].
Gore is a polished debater with a lot of
experience. Bush is much less so.

If Bush and Gore are out campaigning,
slamming each other every day, I
think there could be the sort of "a
plague on both their houses"
phenomenon. Bush needs to find some ways
to keep in the public eye without
having people get tired of him. Maybe
he'll give attention to some state
issues. I think he'll do some more
foreign travel. This is one of the
areas where he hasn't got a lot of
experience, where he has to position
himself for November. And it gets him a
press corp that flies with him,
that gets him attention when he meets
with foreign leaders and it's
non-confrontational. It doesn't lead to
that public reaction of "a plague
on both your houses." So I would suspect
that -- obviously there will be
some Austin and some public statements
-- but I suspect there's also going
to be a considerable bit of foreign
travel. He also has to replenish his
coffers. I think that the same people
who gave him the massive war chest
for the primaries will come back and
give more.

Some McCain voters will go to Bush. Some
were Reform voters in the last
election and will go to whatever the
Reform outcome is. And some of them
will vote for Gore, and some of them
will sit on their hands. The big
question is what are the proportions of
those four options. A lot of it
will depend on how McCain bows out, and
we haven't seen that yet. It's
unlikely that McCain will run as a
third-party candidate, but you never
know. The nice thing about this election
is that it's all made us a bit
more humble about these predictions.

I think that it's unlikely that
Elizabeth Dole will be the vice
presidential nominee. I think the best
option would be if Bush could
persuade McCain to do it. But I don't
think that's likely. If not, then
the idea of breaking the Democratic
gender gap advantage has something to
be said for it. I think Bush is going to
need to do something to push him
back to the center and into a Gore
constituency. Another brilliant coup
would be to persuade Colin Powell that
he should do it, but that also seems

Bush doesn't want to be overshadowed [by
his running mate], but he can't
afford to do what his father did and go
for a Dan Quayle. So I think he
has to go with someone who makes the
statement that, yes, he is the
"compassionate conservative" at the
center of the party, and who is the
core constituency and who can play the
character issue.

Bush may be vulnerable on that issue,
particularly after the way he ran
this last campaign, not even talking
about the ancient history. I'm
talking about the recent Wyly ads, the
breast cancer ads, Bob Jones and so

I think that the biggest thing is the
economy. If the economy stays
strong, then most of the political
scientists would tell you that Gore
should win. But if the economy turns
sour, then the other issues become
swing issues. Keep an eye on the

David Horowitz, Salon columnist

Now begins the general election
campaign. Gore has buried
Bradley from one end of the country to
the other. The Republican contest
is closer, but it is all but over
anyway. Bush has won in the South and
he has won in the North, in the East and
in the West. He has taken
conservative southern states like South
Carolina and liberal northern
states like Maine. He has won a
landslide in the industrial heartland of
Ohio, and he has prevailed by a wide
margin in the New South state of
Georgia. Among Republican voters in
every state he has dominated Sen.
McCain as thoroughly as Gore has
Bradley. It is only among independents
and Democrats that Bush has failed to do
as well.

Looking ahead to the general campaign
there are a number of nice omens
for Republicans early on this Super
Tuesday. In Ohio, 75 percent of the
cast overall were cast for Republican
candidates. In California, early
exit polls showed that 58 percent of
independents cast their votes for Bush
McCain while only 31 percent cast their
votes for Bradley and Gore. Will it be
Bush-McCain versus Gore-Bradley in
November? After tonight, the odds
are that it will.

Andrew Sullivan, columnist for the New York Times Magazine and author of "Love Undetectable"

McCain is not finished as a national
figure or as a senator or as someone
who will now wield a great deal of power
in determining the success or
failure of the Bush ticket. My guess is
he won't run as a third-party
candidate but then I don't know how mad
he is about Bush's campaign. He'd
make a formidable Reform candidate. The
roughly 30-30-30 split in California
strikes me as a pretty good indicator of
the three parties that now
informally exist in America. [And] With
"W." in the race, Gore will have to
do very little to energize the base. It
will be energized.

[To regain his compassion, Bush] will
appear with every black baby he can
find. He'll meet with the Log Cabin
Republicans. He'll speak Spanish. And
so on. He's still the hard-right
candidate. [The religious right] will
put up with him because he's all they've
got; and, besides, they know he's
really one of them. If they tolerated
his dad, they can surely tolerate him.

The fact that almost 40 percent of
Californians backed equal marriage
rights does not seem to me like a
smashing victory for the religious
This, after all, is their strongest
issue. Without Latinos, they would have
been in deep trouble; and I don't think
that, apart from gay-bashing, they
have many other issues to appeal to the
Latino population. So they won't be
resurgent; although a Bush victory will
doubtless solidify their hold on
the GOP. He's their man.

God help us [if Dole is on the ticket].
She's even more of a boob than he
is. She had nothing to say last year,
nothing. The idea that she would help
the gender gap is somewhat insulting to

Larry Sabato, director of the
University of Virginia Center for

We're back to the same boring choice we
had in the beginning. It will get
unboring fast because Pat Buchanan will
take full advantage of this. The
question is can the Republicans win with
all the bigot ground taken? I
don't know the answer to that. There's
also a bigot faction in the
Democratic Party, the Al Sharptons who
use racial language to their
advantage. The difference is that I
never believed that they control very
many votes, whereas Buchanan can attrack
the nuts in large proportions.

Some of the McCain folks are angry and
some of the Bradley voters are
equally angry. I'm at an academic
institution and 92 percent of the
here support Bradley. There just is not
support for Gore. They don't like
him, they're surprisingly critical of
Clinton and the scandals, and they
can't stand Bush. So it got down to
Bradley and McCain, and they favored
Bradley, for party identification
purposes, over McCain.

They're depressed this morning, they're
angry, they're upset they're hoping
that someone who is acceptable and
mainstream jumps into the campaign. And
there are millions of people out there
like that.

There are two openings. Remember,
Bradley was further to the left than
Gore, so there's an opening to the left.
If Ralph Nader still had the kind
of credibility that he had in the '60s
and '70s, he would be
dangerous to the Democratic Party. And
maybe he still will be. Maybe in
California, in a close race, he can
take away enough Democratic votes to
tip the election. But no one is talking
about that. Maybe they ought to
be. The Bradley folks I know are split,
but a sizable number of Bradley
voters are not voting for Gore. They
are looking for an alternative.

The McCain middle includes moderate
conservatives in the Republican Party,
independent moderates, and even some
moderate Democrats. They also feel
hopeless this morning. They are looking
for an alternative. The exit
polls say a third of them are voting for
Gore. I suppose that means two-thirds
are voting for Bush or Buchanan.

But these exit polls --and I've seen
them every cycle since they started --
the immediate exit poll results are not
indicative of what will happen in
November. They're simply an
indication of how much anger there is.
I think that it's a significant figure.
If 35 percent of the McCain voters say
they will vote for Gore, well 35 percent
of his voters were not Democrats. Maybe
8 or 10 percent of the voters were
Democrats. Even if you double that, the
other percentage has to be coming from
disgruntled liberal Republicans and
moderate-to-liberal Independents.

What politicians say yesterday has only
a passing acquaintance with what
they do today. I don't think McCain
would run as a Reform or an
Independent candidate. But if John
McCain is hated by the Republicans,
what's he doing there? If I were in an
institution where most of my
colleagues hated me, I'd go somewhere
else. My guess is a lot of people
will ask, "Why should he stay with
people who don't appreciate what he has
to offer?"

Of course, he wouldn't run as a Democrat
but it's easy to see him become an
independent. He is by nature an
independent. He's a maverick, he's a
populist, he's one of a kind. People
like him never fit in parties.
McCain was created by a unique set of
genes and a unique set of
circumstances that brought out the
courage and the toughness in him. Did
the media like him and help him along?
Of course! Is the pope Catholic?

The media overwhelmingly loved him and
showed their bias repeatedly. So
what else is new? That didn't help
Bruce Babbit. So why did McCain get
further than Babbit? Because there was
something there, and because McCain
connected with average people. I'm not
speaking for McCain, and he would tell
you that he doesn't like me. But you
have to give him his due.

My guess is that both Bush and McCain
are strongly disinclined to pursue
[having McCain as a running mate]. Vice
presidents are toadies, and they
have to have a personality that helps
them to be a toady. Gore is perfect.
George Bush senior was perfect. They --
just by nature -- were toadies.

And I think people sense that about
Gore. He may win, but he will never be
truly respected because people sense
that there is a phoniness, a fakeness
to him, that he is not his own man, that
he will do or say anything to get
where he is going.

As a vice president, Elizabeth Dole --
she's never been elected to public
office -- can't overshadow Bush, who
has been elected twice in a major
state. Yet she adds all the dimensions
that we know about. [Pennsylvania
Gov.] Tom Ridge -- who I think is very
high up on the list -- is governor of
the only large Northeastern state
available to the Republicans. And the
only way it's available is with Ridge on
the ticket. That's one you take
out of the Democratic column and into
the Republican column, so that's a
double hit. Thirdly, he's Roman
Catholic. That helps with the Catholic
problem. Fourthly, he's a Vietnam War
hero. Who does that remind you of?
Fifth, he's kept good relations with
John McCain. So I think Ridge makes a
heck of a lot of sense. But so does
Elizabeth Dole. Those two to me make
more sense than anybody.

On the Democratic side, everybody says
Feinstein. I just don't believe it.
If a Democrat can't carry California on
his own, then he shouldn't be
running, and I think Gore can. He
proved it yesterday. I think Bill
Richardson makes more sense because Bush
actually does have a plan for
winning 40 percent of the Hispanic vote.
That really is a danger to the
Democrats. The other choice in this
race -- and it seems really boring --
but you talk about a candidate who won't
show up Al Gore? Evan Bayh
[former Gov.] of Indiana. He picks up
Indiana, which he never would
otherwise. The entire campaign will be
in Ohio, Illinois and Michigan.
It's going to come down to the same
states that it did in '96 and '92.
We're going to trying to make it
interesting, but we're still running the
same election.

Bush lost more than money in his race
with McCain. He lost the air of
inevitability. He's been shown to be a
less than impressive debater, not
all that quick on his feet, there are
just so many things. Sure, many of
these things would have been revealed in
the general election. But they
were revealed in a way that made them
even more damaging for Bush. They
were revealed early and harshly.

I tend to want to say Gore is the
favorite. What keeps me from doing that
is that Gore is so unimpressive and so
unattractive. There are a whole lot
of people who ought to be for him who
are just saying "oh no."

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