WASHINGTON -- A key early backer of Texas Gov. George W. Bush defected to a rival presidential campaign yesterday, offering another reminder that the race for the Republican nomination is far from over.
Former New York Rep. Guy V. Molinari, a name with considerable power in delegate-rich New York GOP circles, switched his allegiance to Sen. John McCain of Arizona in the latest in a series of bumps for what had been the smooth-running Bush campaign.
Molinari, a leader in the effort to coax Bush into the race, said he changed his mind after comparing the candidates. The former Republican congressman serves as Staten Island borough president.
Although Bush remains the clear front-runner in the GOP contest, his efforts to set himself apart from the pack have alienated some key party factions.
At the same time, Bush's once-surging poll numbers, while still impressive, have begun to level off.
He still holds a commanding lead in every credible poll, capturing more than 40 percent of the vote in a six-person race.
"If he drops four or five points and McCain moves up four or five points, it's a race," said New York pollster John Zogby. "McCain has the potential to take off."
Pub Date: 10/19/99