• Analysts say McCain could win voters who want change but prefer to stay GOP loyalists.
The Associated Press
PHOENIX – Both Arizona Sen. John McCain and Texas Gov. George W. Bush could benefit from Elizabeth Dole’s decision to end her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, political analysts say.
Dole cast herself as an alternative to Bush, but she appealed most to the same moderate Republicans Bush is courting.
She announced her decision to drop out yesterday citing a lack of funding to compete effectively.
Without Dole in the race, those voters could choose to jump on the Bush bandwagon because they support similar policies or they decide they want someone else and back McCain, who is emerging as his leading challenger, said Barbara Norrander, a political science professor at the University of Arizona.
Those voters – and Dole supporters such as Phoenix Mayor Skip Rimsza and former Attorney General Grant Woods – could have a significant impact on the Feb. 22 Arizona primary, Arizona State University pollster Bruce Merrill said. ”It’s really important here because this race is going to be really tight.”
Earl de Berge, research director at the Behavior Research Center in Phoenix, said Dole’s Arizona supporters may be more inclined to switch to McCain.
State polling results have consistently shown Bush with support from about 38 percent of voters even though other candidates, including Paradise Valley resident Dan Quayle, have dropped out. McCain, meanwhile, has been gaining ground here and in other states.
”Bush may have what he’s going to get in Arizona,” de Berge said. ”The rest may really be voting against him. But we always have to remember they (Dole voters) could just go sit on the fence.”
Publisher Steve Forbes, who casts himself as a conservative political outsider running against moderate establishment candidates, said he expects much of Dole’s campaign staff to join Bush or McCain. What he hopes to pick up are some of her voters.
PHOTO CAPTION: The Associated Press
Elizabeth Dole makes her withdrawal statement in Washington, with husband, Bob, at her side.