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
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
footballSporting Lisbon take on Chelsea as Manchester City host Roma
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
businessForbes 400 list released
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General


Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Day In a Page

Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn