McCain triumphs in debate against nervous Bush

REPUBLICAN RIVALS for the presidential nomination fanned out across the small New England state of New Hampshire yesterday, back on the campaign trail after a televised debate that had brought all six of them together on the same platform for the first time - and cost none his electoral chances.

Of the leading contenders, George W Bush, the Governor of Texas, avoided the twin pitfalls of gaffe and ignorance; Senator John McCain displayed his breadth of experience and quickness of wit; Steve Forbes, the millionaire publisher, capitalised on his sober-suited managerial competence; and Gary Bauer, the Christian conservative, was articulate and unswayed in defence of his principles.

Yet there was a clear winner in this carefully constructed question and answer session: Mr McCain, who impressed, charmed and amused by turns, rapidly shedding his uncharacteristic diffidence.

Mr Bush, in his first national television debate, seemed unsure whether to stand aloof as the front-runner or muck in as one of the boys, and he shifted uneasily between the two approaches, his discomfort palpable.

For both Mr McCain and Mr Bush, much was at stake. After a month-long surge in opinion polls during which he pulled ahead of Mr Bush in New Hampshire, Mr McCain was again losing ground. Mr Bush had planned not to take part in debates before the new year, but was forced by Mr McCain's rise in this key state to change his mind. The New Hampshire primary election, which will help to determine who wins the Republican nomination, is now less than two months away.

The candidates had rolled into the city of Manchester like minor heads of state in their limousines, slowing for the approach to the local broadcasting station to acknowledge the cheers of their supporters.

Just across the road, several hundred McCain supporters crammed into Jillian's, Manchester's premier sports bar, which had switched its giant screens from football to politics for the evening.

When the genial face of George Bush appeared on screen in his latest campaign advertisement - "Every child... should share in the American dream" - there were loud boos.

As Mr McCain was introduced, the second of the six candidates, the cheers rang out. There were tables of military veterans in their studded caps - a constituency for which Mr McCain as a Vietnam war hero has a special appeal - but ranks of young people, too, including a spectacular punk with a red Mohican hair-do, for whom Mr McCain's anti-establishment image is the chief draw.

Chatting amiably through the fiery rhetoric of the black conservative, Alan Keyes, and the languid explanations of the sixth candidate, Senator Orrin Hatch, the McCain fans called for a respectful silence whenever a question was directed at their candidate, and then dissolved into laughter when, in response to a question about his well known temper, he quipped: "A comment like that really makes me mad." Or, when asked about economic policy, he said that not only would he keep on the present chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, but that, if he died, he would want him propped up in a corner thereafter.

With his huge poll lead nationally, Mr Bush has no immediate cause for worry, but the race is not over. The candidates are back in the debating studio on Monday - in Mr McCain's home state of Arizona this time - for another round.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory