British Media Foresee Bush-Gore Contest

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

London ( - With the arrival of Super Tuesday, the US presidential election campaign is making headlines in Britain's leading newspapers and on the country's airwaves, with most media predicting a Bush-Gore race for the presidency.

Reporters and commentators generally agreed Senator Bill Bradley was approaching the end of his campaign, although many still held out hope for a McCain surprise.

The Times of London predicted "almost certain defeat" for Bradley who, in the opinion of the BBC "ran an idealistic campaign which basically asked people to vote for others, not themselves. This is not how most elections are won."

Senator John McCain gets a lot of coverage. "McCain in last-chance saloon on Super Tuesday," reports the Independent, which focuses on the mud-slinging - an activity more common to British election campaigns and the robust debate in the House of Commons.

Noting that McCain is "as spiky as ever," it says: "There is as much animus as ever between the two [GOP] candidates, and it will be weeks before tempers cool. The Democrats are trading on the antagonism, with a tough, nasty and negative general election in prospect."

Also reporting on the McCain campaign, the Times says: "After the surprise victories and the crusading cries, the bitter debates and unholy rows, it's now up to New York. Republicans from the Bronx to Buffalo who will go to the polls today to decide if the Straight Talk Express should stay on the road."

On the same contest, a BBC correspondent says: "You haven't really arrived in New York politics until the city's tabloid newspapers label you with a nickname," and notes that the New York Post has dubbed McCain "Big Mac."

"Mr. McCain's maverick style, promises of straight talking and high energy levels are just the kind of things to appeal to New Yorkers, and many of those watching [a McCain rally on Friday] said he was inspiring them to get interested in politics for the first time."

The Daily Telegraph focuses on California Secretary of State Bill Jones, the state's highest-ranking elected Republican, who defected from Bush to McCain after the New Hampshire primary, and his daughter Andrea, McCain's national youth coordinator.

The father-daughter combination, it says, "encapsulates the nature of his appeal to voters."

"That's a phenomenon that very few candidates can create," Andrea Jones is quoted as saying. "It used to take a war or some sort of major disaster to bring people together but now we're rallying behind a man because we believe in him."

Despite the interest in McCain, most media seem to agree that the November contest will come down to George W. Bush and Al Gore.

The BBC notes that while political commentators had hailed the emergence of Bradley and McCain as the harbingers of a "politics of authenticity," the odds had been stacked against them by the demands of the campaign cycle.

The Times reports that Bush is confident he will become the Republican nominee and has thus "turned his fire" on Gore, swapping accusations with the Vice President of dubious campaign financing.

The satellite and cable channel Sky News looks at the Hispanic community in California - "potentially a huge political force and one which the candidates have realized they ignore at their peril" - and reports that both Bush and Gore have displayed a "sudden display of linguistic skills" in the form of Spanish-language adverts and campaign slogans.

Eyeing the New York primary, The Scotsman opines that "With friends like [Mayor] Rudolph Giuliani, George W. Bush hardly needs enemies."

The Edinburgh daily explores how Giuliani's own "complicated and deeply personal" political agenda as he faces the Senate race against Hillary Rodham Clinton has resulted in an "ambivalence" when it comes to the Bush vs. McCain battle - at the expense of the Texas governor.

Picking up on one of Bush's perceived weaknesses - a "hazy knowledge of foreign leaders" - the Times reports that a Canadian satirist posing as a reporter had asked the candidate to comment on the fact Canadian Prime Minister Jean "Poutine" had endorsed him.

Bush welcomed the news, notwithstanding the fact Canada's premier is Jean Chretien, while Poutine is the name of a fast-food chain.

In a rare leading article on the campaign, the Telegraph predicts Bush will win the Republican nomination.

It contrasts him to his father, the "hapless" former president, and says the differences owe much to their respective generations.

"Republicans of George Bush Sr.'s generation, who grew up during the New Deal epoch of the 1930s and entered public life around the time of the Great Society of the 1960s, tend to have a very pessimistic view of what conservatives could accomplish in terms of rolling back the economic and cultural gains of the liberal establishment.

"George W., by contrast, came of political age in an era when the high-water mark of liberalism had passed. Indeed, his approach owes more to Ronald Reagan than to his consensual father."

While he may be regarded by some in Washington salons as "a dim, accident-prone kid quite out of his depth in the big league," the Telegraph says, "George W. is clever enough to know his own limitations and to pick capable counselors."

A BBC analyst notes that Bush, while he had not been "a brilliant candidate," has been underestimated by opponents before.

"When he was running for governor of Texas, his opponent, the formidable incumbent, Anne Richards, dismissed him as a 'shrub.'

"Now he is governor and she is just another television pundit."

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow