Leadership qualities define 2000 campaign

Super Tuesday: Primary races have helped set tone for the fall presidential contest.

March 08, 2000

THE FIRST ACT of Campaign 2000 will soon be over, except for the hoopla of the summer's political conventions.

Although marked by some negative campaigning, the stage that has been set for the fall's presidential campaign is one on which the candidates' leadership potential has moved to the front. The voters' assessment of that -- not slogans, labels or mud-slinging -- will ultimately decide the outcome of the November election.

For the post-Clinton era, the search is on for a president with the commitment and vision to lead an America that is optimistic about the future, yet troubled by some aspects of the present.

The Super Tuesday victories of Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore in states including Ohio, Maryland and Georgia were not unexpected. But neither has the primary season turned into the coronation of the frontrunners that was expected.

Sen. John McCain's strength yesterday in New England was being linked to his appeal to independent-minded voters. Earlier, the Arizona Republican trounced Governor Bush in the New Hampshire primary.

Senator McCain's insurgent campaign will help shape the fall campaign, as will the candidacy of former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley on the Democratic side. Mr. McCain's message of GOP inclusiveness and commitment to reform, along with Mr. Bradley's earnestness and appeal to voters' better instincts, will play a significant role in defining the debate leading to November.

In the coming months, the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees will sharpen their messages. More details will emerge of their positions on health care, gun violence, education, campaign finance, the environment and the racial and religious divisions the country still faces.

The focus of the fall campaign should be on such issues, as well as the qualities of leadership the country needs. The American people deserve no less than the best.

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