February 9, 2000 -- Republican presidential contender Steve Forbes has scheduled a Thursday news conference in New Jersey, where news reports indicate he will quit the race.
Forbes earned only 20 percent of the Delaware primary vote Tuesday, finishing third in a state he won four years before. Texas Gov. George W. Bush won with 51 percent. Arizona Sen. John McCain, who did not campaign in Delaware, finished second with 25 percent.
With Forbes out, the campaign to win the next primary in South Carolina is being called a two-man "collision" by the Associated press. Bush, who lost to McCain in New Hampshire, says he wants to use momentum from his Delaware victory in the Palmetto State. But McCain has been campaigning throughout the state since his big win on Feb. 1.
As the primary nears, the two have begun questioning the others credibility looking to gain votes. The Bush campaign recently began airing a new television commercial claiming McCain, who promotes a platform of campaign finance reform, "solicits money from lobbyists with interests before his committee and pressures agencies on behalf of contributors."
Bush also hammered McCain for supporting public funding of elections. Although the Arizona Senator says he has always opposed such a move, Bush has been handing out a list of five McCain votes between 1990 and 1993 in favor of a bill that proposed partial public funding of Senate campaigns.
"Sen. McCain voted not once, not twice, but five times to support publicly funded congressional campaigns," Bush told reporters.
Promising no negative ads
Meanwhile, McCain has accused Bush of breaking his promise not to run negative ads, implying voters cannot trust the Texas governor's word.
"I believe it is not trustworthy when someone shakes your hand and says they're not going to run a negative ad, and then runs a negative ad," McCain said on his campaign bus. "We've already got somebody in the Oval Office who is not trustworthy."
But, Republican hopeful Alan Keyes, who finished third in the Iowa Caucuses, is the only other candidate remaining in the race.
The former Ambassador told a crowd at an opera house that an "oppressive government" is to blame for the country's moral crisis. Keyes urged the crowd of supporters to take control of their lives and "through the goodness of their heart, take on the responsibilities of freedom and self-government."
All three candidates hope to court some of Forbes' supporters, who are generally considered conservative and anti-tax. According to the Associated Press, Forbes does not plan to announce an endorsement Thursday.
"I'm going to work hard to appeal to his voters and give his conservative voters a home," Bush said on NBC's "Today."
But McCain replied on CBS, "Most of them will head in our direction." McCain said his tax plan, which provides a smaller tax cut, is more conservative than Bush's.
South Carolina's primary, which like New Hampshire is also open to independents, is Feb. 19.