Primary Force

Primary Force

Primary Force

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 23 2000 7:57 AM

Primary Force

All five papers lead with John McCain's dual primary victory in Michigan and Arizona. The New York Times gives the news a four-column, three-row headline, which notes that McCain was "buoyed by [a] big crossover vote." An alarming new study of psychiatric drug use among toddlers and the closing arguments in the Microsoft trial also make the front pages.

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McCain won 50 percent of the Michigan vote, with George W. Bush taking 44 percent and Alan Keyes 5 percent. In his home state of Arizona, McCain won 60 percent to Bush's 36 percent and Keyes' 4 percent. (These figures are with 87 percent and 79 percent of precincts reporting, respectively.) In Michigan, Bush won by nearly 40 points among Republicans; however, more than half of primary voters were Democrats and independents (17 percent and 35 percent, respectively), who ultimately gave McCain the edge. McCain also won among political moderates, those without a college degree, and pro-choice voters, reports the Wall Street Journal. He earned all 30 of Arizona's delegates to the GOP convention, and 46 of Michigan's 58 delegates (the Post says, "at least 19" of the 58). (No paper adequately explains the Michigan delegate numbers, which are neither proportional to the vote totals nor the result of winner-take-all.)

In his victory speech, McCain compared himself to Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan and asked, "Don't fear this campaign my fellow Republicans. Join it." The Los Angeles Times quotes Bush saying that "McCain deserves credit for winning Michigan. I deserve credit for winning the Republican vote, overwhelmingly." Bush accused McCain of orchestrating a series of phone calls to voters painting him as anti-Catholic.

McCain's Arizona numbers were better than those in Michigan. He won among Republicans and the "somewhat conservative" there, reports the LAT. He split the "religious right" vote and lost the "very conservative" vote by 15 points. Bush had spent $2 million in the state, while McCain, the Washington Post says, did not even buy television ads.

McCain's Michigan victory humiliated three-term Gov. John Engler, a Bush ally who had, writes the LAT, promised a 4-to-5 point Bush victory several days ago. Of the 15 percent of voters who were "greatly influenced" by Engler's endorsement, McCain won nearly 3 to 1. Last night, Engler accused McCain of "party-borrowing" rather than "party-building" and of "renting Democrats." The Post prints McCain's reply to Engler: "Be a man." (To read why McCain appeals to emasculated, suburban men, check out Slate's "Culturebox.")

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Given McCain's weak support among Republicans, the closed nature of the California and New York primaries, and the spate of Southern primaries in mid-March, most papers still consider McCain a significant underdog. The NYT, however, McSwoons for the Arizona senator. R.W. Apple calls his victory  "electrifying and oh-so-vital," while Richard L. Berke says that McCain--with his six-point Michigan win--"trounced" Bush and now threatens the governor, with his "vast endorsements and colossal treasury." Only in the 23rd paragraph does he mention McCain's abysmal showing among Republicans in Michigan.

The NYT off-leads, and the Post reefers, the closing arguments in the Microsoft antitrust trial. The NYT and Journal note high up that Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson offhandedly compared Microsoft to Standard Oil, the monopoly dismantled by the government early last century. The Journal stresses the importance of Microsoft's argument that Windows' copyright protection trumps antitrust law. (To read Dahlia Lithwick's dispatch from yesterday's proceedings, click here.)

The Post off-leads, and the NYT fronts, a study finding that the use of stimulants and anti-depressants among 2-to-4 year olds more than doubled between 1991 and 1995, to 1.5 percent. These drugs have not been approved for children younger than 6 nor do scientists know how they affect the developing brain of a toddler. The study's authors finger the unwillingness of insurance companies to pay for non-pharmacological treatments and the sloppiness of doctors who surmise that what works for 7-to-10 year olds (for things like attention-deficit disorder, insomnia, and depression) must work for younger children as well.

The LAT's Ronald Brownstein and the NYT's R.W. Apple were both given the same assignment yesterday: Analyze the results of the Michigan and Arizona primaries. Their opening paragraphs hint at the style of the story to follow:

John McCain's back-from-the-brink victories in Michigan and Arizona on Tuesday night ensured a protracted nomination fight between two rivals now mobilizing virtually mirror-image voter coalitions in an epic struggle over the Republican Party's direction.
--Ronald Brownstein
This road is nothing but bumps. New Hampshire knocked Gov. George W. Bush's bandwagon off the highway. Then, last Saturday, South Carolina derailed Senator John McCain's Straight Talk Express. Today, after a meager two-day campaign, Mr. Bush hit a sizable pothole in Michigan, right in the middle of his turnpike to victory.
--R.W. Apple