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
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss