A McCain backer in South Carolina resigned Thursday over the presidential hopeful's immigration stance.
ATLANTA (CNN) – A county chairman for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in South Carolina has quit over the Arizona Republican's support of the immigration bill.
“There is a very wide gulf between what I believe as a conservative South Carolina Republican and what Senator McCain is pushing for with this bill. It is an extremely weighty matter,” David Nix, McCain’s Aiken County chairman, told CNN
In a brief resignation letter to the campaign, Nix said McCain “can’t read the pulse of the American citizens” on immigration.
Nix also told CNN he joined the McCain campaign because of a long friendship with State Attorney General Henry McMaster, McCain’s state co-chairman.
"I was hopeful Senator McCain might bring some leadership to the race early on, I hope he would be able to keep his nose clean, but I’m afraid he’s not been able to do that," Nix said.
He said the immigration issue was behind his final decision to drop his support, but added McCain had “a couple of bumps since I got on board....when the spotlight gets on him, he just starts to lose his focus. He loses his cool and composure.”
Nix said he has not yet decided who to back in the primary, but noted that he is “waiting to see what Fred Thompson does. I like him on the surface.”
For now, Nix said, he is going to “step back” before making any decisions.
McCain's campaign responded to the resignation by releasing a statement from McMaster in support of the Arizona Republican.
“Most people understand it's never possible to agree with any leader on every single issue," McMaster said. "John McCain has 80 county chairs and co-chairs in South Carolina - plus hundreds of other endorsements from Republican elected officials and party activists all across South Carolina, more than any other presidential candidate.
“Those of us on John McCain's team admire him for his courage, his honesty and his willingness to take a stand," he added. "He is clearly the best prepared to lead our nation in the war against global terror."
- CNN's Steve Brusk