WASHINGTON (CNN) – Half a dozen Republican governors backed Arizona Sen. John McCain Monday over former GOP Arkansas governor and ex-National Governors Association chairman Mike Huckabee.
McCain “will present a very clear choice against whomever the Democrats nominate,” said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, backing McCain in advance of his state’s March 11 primary. “I don’t think I have to convince anybody of how liberal Sen. Clinton is. But, remarkable as it may seem, Sen. Obama’s voting record is even more liberal than hers. Barack Obama, if he wins the Democratic nomination, will be the most liberal candidate for president of the United States in the history of our country. And Sen. Clinton is about as liberal.”
“It will be the clearest contrasts between philosophies and world views that this nation, I believe, has ever seen,” added Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Although McCain leads in the GOP delegate count and is the party’s presumptive nominee, he has had trouble winning over the party’s conservative base. Barbour acknowledged Monday that “John McCain is not as conservative as Haley Barbour.” But the former Chairman of the Republican National Committee said it was “hugely unlikely” that a lot of conservatives would not support McCain in a match-up against Clinton or Obama, adding: “It is also something that we ought to be happy about – that McCain appeals so readily to moderates, to people who are not conservatives at all. That gives him a better chance of winning in November.”
Barbour and Perdue also sought to downplay the fundraising gap between McCain and the two remaining Democratic contenders. Hillary Clinton raised three times McCain’s $12 million haul in February; Barack Obama, whose campaign has not yet released his February fundraising totals, has said the Illinois senator has raised considerably more than that.
“This isn’t about dollars,” added Perdue. “It’s about the heart and soul and the votes of the American people.”
In a statement released by the McCain campaign, North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley joined Barbour and Perdue in endorsing McCain, who headlined a major gathering at last month’s annual meeting of the Republican Governors Association in Washington.
–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart