McCain to Make Announcement Thursday at Noon Eastern TimeAired March 8, 2000 - 8:01 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The votes are counted, the dust has cleared, and barring some dramatic turn of events, Americans now have their two major party candidates for election 2000. In fact, there is late-breaking news out of Arizona tonight.
CNN's John King joins us live from Sedona, Arizona, near where Senator John McCain is deciding his next move.
John, what's the latest from there?
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Senator McCain returned home this evening obviously very disappointed by the Super Tuesday results. He has been calling friends and supporters around the country, and CNN has learned that tomorrow morning here, 10:00 local time in Sedona, Senator McCain will make an announcement that he is bringing his campaign for the Republican nomination to a halt.
KING (voice-over): McCain returned home the morning after his Super Tuesday thumping and headed to his mountain to think things over.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Then we'll be making a decision as to what we will do concerning the campaign.
KING: Senator Chuck Hagel spoke to McCain on Wednesday, and predicts it won't be a long wait.
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE), MCCAIN SUPPORTER: John's a realist. John counts pretty well. John's a very effective leader and politician. And mathematically, we just can't get there.
KING: Given that, McCain aides say there's little rationale for going on. And most top advisers say the senator would risk his newfound stature in national politics if he stayed in the race and was drubbed again next week.
HAGEL: John's not going to put this country or this party through some high theater and high drama about, gee, should I do this, or should I jump off the cliff? Or what should I do? That's not his style. KING: But the senator is adamant that his reform agenda be embraced by Bush and the GOP establishment, and the McCain team, the motions still raw, is looking for an overture from Austin.
SCOTT REED, DOLE '96 CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Bush needs to reach out to him in a very frontal way, not just a phone call and not just a handshake, as both on a personal level, and he ought to be embracing some of McCain's ideas.
KING: McCain leverage is his support among Democrats and independents and the thousands of first-time voters who helped power his seven primary victories.
REED: He has brought issues, and ideas and enthusiasms to this race that it really was lacking.
KING: McCain has repeatedly said he would never consider the Republican vice presidential nomination and isn't interested in a third party presidential run.
KING: Now some aides are telling us tonight that Senator McCain might use the term suspend when he makes this announcement tomorrow. That would give him a little leeway in case Governor Bush suddenly stumbled, in case Republican voters suddenly got a case of buyers remorse, but top McCain aides don't expect that to happen. They think by next Tuesday night, Governor Bush will have a mathematical lock on the Republican nomination, and then Senator McCain's campaign will be officially over -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And what are McCain aides saying to you, John, about the possibility that John McCain might not rule out the possibility of a third party run for the presidency. Well, Senator McCain has consistently ruled that out, but there are very raw emotions right now. The McCain stuff doesn't think much of the Bush staff, the two candidates have had strained relations, and the McCain staff looking for an overture from Austin. They want Governor Bush not only to embrace John McCain, but his agenda.
One senior official in the campaign telling us earlier today that he sees no way that John McCain would jump to the Reform Party, but that he could see him being pushed. Clearly, they're trying to send a signal that they want Bush and they want the Republican establishment to take note of what John McCain has accomplished in this campaign. They staff suggesting anyway, that if that doesn't happen, there could be trouble.
Again, though, Senator McCain has said he's a loyal Republican. He has consistently ruled the third party route out -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And as far, John, as some sort of endorsement of Governor Bush coming from John McCain as early as tomorrow, that, I take it, is unlikely.
KING: We have been told not to look for an official endorsement, that Senator McCain very much wants to see how Governor Bush handles himself in the days and weeks ahead, wants to see how far Governor Bush will go in embracing not only Senator McCain's ideas, but the thoughts that the reform agenda he put forward, the reform agenda he says attracted the independents and Democrats, critical if Governor Bush is to succeed in November.
BLITZER: OK, John King, reporting from Sedona, Arizona. A noon Eastern announcement coming tomorrow from Senator John McCain. Thanks for joining us.
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