HUDSON, N.H. -- Fresh from victories in the first voting of the 2000 presidential campaign, Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush quickly turned their attention today to the contest in New Hampshire. Last-place finisher Orrin Hatch decided to quit the GOP race.
In the caucuses Monday night, Gore piled up a yawning gap over rival Bill Bradley, and Bush faced stiff competition from second-place finisher Steve Forbes. Utah Sen. Hatch took only 1 percent of the vote in the six-man field and was making plans for his withdrawal announcement, a senior adviser said today.
''Yesterday was 'Thank you, Iowa.' Today is 'We're ready New Hampshire,''' Bush said early this morning after an overnight flight to Manchester, N.H. Later, he told CBS' ''Early Show'' that Forbes ''deserves credit for a strong second.''
''I, however, had a strong first,'' Bush said.
An exuberant Gore, also on CBS, said today the competition from Bradley ''is great. It's put wind in my sails and made it easier for me to get my keel deeper in the water, so to speak.''
On the Republican side, with more than 97 percent of the state's 2,142 precincts reporting, Bush had 41 percent of the vote while Forbes had 30 percent. Conservative Alan Keyes had a solid third-place showing with 14 percent.
''This is not a good night for the power brokers in Washington,'' Forbes told cheering backers Monday night. ''We broke the political rules.''
Forbes argued that his showing means he's ''emerged as the conservative candidate'' to serve as an alternative to the front-running Bush. It also set the stage for a three-way primary fight in New Hampshire between himself, Bush and Sen. John McCain.
Forbes has staked out more conservative positions since his 1996 loss, particularly on abortion, but the McCain camp believes that won't play as well in New Hampshire, where independent voters are a more important factor.
The abortion issue came up for McCain again today. Asked whether he would favor changing the abortion ban in the Republican platform to favor allowing abortion in cases of rape or incest or to save the mother's life, McCain said, ''I would support the change.''
''That is the position of Henry Hyde who is a leader of the pro-life movement,'' McCain told reporters before a town hall meeting in Sunapee, N.H. He declined to say whether he would actively seek such a change.
McCain, who has focused on reforming campaign fund-raising, also said he felt vindicated by the Supreme Court decision upholding limits on political contributions. ''This is what the whole campaign was about, is about,'' McCain said.
Trailing those three and likely facing campaign re-evaluation was Washington activist Gary Bauer at 9 percent. McCain, the Arizona senator who skipped Iowa to focus on New Hampshire, pulled 5 percent of the vote.
''In my view, the game is here,'' McCain said from New Hampshire, where he was campaigning and where polls show him in a too-close-to-call race with Bush. ''We'll find out in the next few days whether it was a wise investment.''
Among Democrats, with 98 percent of the 2,131 precincts reporting, Gore had piled up a commanding 63-35 lead over Bradley after a tough caucus campaign and was hoping for a bump heading into New Hampshire.
With only 47 Democratic and 25 Republican delegates at stake in Monday's caucuses, the real prize was momentum for New Hampshire primaries Feb. 1.
Gore claimed that momentum, and said his win was sweeter because Bradley had poured millions of dollars and hours of time into the hotly contested state.
''Senator Bradley spent far more money and ran far more TV ads than any candidate in the history of the Iowa caucuses,'' said Gore.
Before traveling to Hudson, Bradley conceded at a raucous campaign rally, congratulating Gore in terms that made it clear he intends to soldier on.
''He's a tough opponent and I know I'll be seeing a lot of him in the coming weeks,'' said Bradley, who aides say plans to become more critical of the vice president.
Bradley said he was satisfied with the result, considering that he started far behind and found the Democratic Party power structure lined up against him.
''Tonight, I have a little more humility, but no less confidence that I can win and do the job,'' he told cheering backers. ''Considering where we started, you've done extraordinarily well.''
Looking ahead to New Hampshire, Gore and Bradley were locked in a tie in Granite state polls. McCain holds a slight lead over Bush in most GOP polls there, and he hoped to sustain it even after bypassing Iowa. But Bush is planning to open a new front against McCain, arguing that he has offered bold, new education initiatives while the senator has proposed little in the way of education reform. The two had been arguing over tax cuts.
Seeking to get a jump in New Hampshire, Bradley held a noisy, predawn rally at 3:30 a.m. this morning after arriving in Nashua, N.H., where he was greeted by more than 100 chanting and cheering backers. ''This energy is going to carry us all the way,''' Bradley said. ''Whoever would have thought we'd be met by this kind of crowd in the middle of the night.''
Forbes, meanwhile, has been a distant third in New Hampshire, but hoped his Iowa showing would improve his numbers.
Bradley was delivering a speech today on reinventing politics in which aides said he would underscore differences. ''He will be passionate about it,'' said aide Eric Hauser.
Bradley and Gore are competitive in the Granite State, but the vice president's solid showing Monday night in Iowa dents Bradley's armor.
The New Hampshire contests are the first in a furious flurry of primary elections that could determine the presidential nominations by March 7.
Among Republicans, the Iowa results were likely to reduce the six-man field, though they gave Keyes' campaign a needed boost. He hadn't climbed out of single digits in any pre-caucus polls, but his fiery oratory drew increasingly heavy crowds in the final days.
Hatch flew back to Washington after the results came in, without speaking to reporters. Hatch previously had said he would re-evaluate his campaign if he finished last. Bauer was said to be deeply disappointed and assessing the future of his candidacy, but defiantly told about 50 supporters that ''I wasn't raised a quitter.''
Bush took care to be expansive in accepting his win. ''This was a crowded field of hard-working candidates,'' he said. ''To get over 40 percent in a crowded field is a tremendous victory.''
But his strategists were far more dismissive, noting that Forbes hasn't run nearly so well in New Hampshire.
''This is his high-water mark,'' said Bush strategist Karl Rove. ''New Hampshire might be the same for John McCain.''
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