September 14th, 2007
03:00 PM ET
15 years ago

Can McCain weather the political storm in South Carolina?

Arizona Sen. John McCain gets off his "No Surrender" bus at a campaign stop in Waterloo, Iowa, Wednesday.

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - In the summer of 2006, when Sen. John McCain was the early front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, he began assembling what was supposed to be an unparalleled political organization in South Carolina.

The Arizona senator got an early jump on the endorsement game, locking up scores of supporters, from statehouse leaders on down to mayors and county GOP chairmen.

He also began signing up many of President Bush's supporters from 2000 - the very same people who worked forcefully to halt McCain's New Hampshire primary momentum and put an end to his presidential bid in this state.

One year and one massive campaign shake-up later, there are whispers in the state capital that some of those backers have considered abandoning McCain, perhaps to sign up with former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson or even former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

"South Carolinians like presidential candidates who build support among elected officials," said Tucker Eskew, who helped engineer Bush's South Carolina primary victory in 2000, but is not affiliated with a candidate in the 2008 campaign. "But they show interest in winners, too. They want a connected winner."

McCain's endorsements - more than 250 of them, according to a campaign spreadsheet - are still there. But whether they are solid or soft is an open-ended question.

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- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby

Filed under: Extra • John McCain • South Carolina
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