January 20th, 2008
01:30 PM ET
14 years ago

McCain brushes aside suggestion of weak Republican support

(CNN) - John McCain Sunday brushed aside suggestions exit polls from the South Carolina Republican primary suggest he still is failing to garner widespread support from his party's base.

"I got more votes than anybody else, and it says that I got it from across the spectrum from all over the state," McCain told CNN's Dana Bash. "We expected this to be a very highly contested race, and for the 28 years the candidate who has won South Carolina has been the nominee of the party."

The Arizona senator edged out Mike Huckabee Saturday night in the first Southern primary of the race, 33 percent to 30 percent. But according to exit polling, McCain narrowly trailed Huckabee in support from the 80 percent of primary voters who identified themselves as Republicans. Huckabee won 32 percent of their support compared to McCain's 31 percent. (McCain overwhelmingly won among the remaining 20 percent of primary voters who identified themselves as independents.)

McCain has long had difficulty currying favor from his party's conservative wing. Despite his solid voting record in the senate, many ardent Republicans have been unhappy with his past willingness to team up with liberal Sens. Russ Feingold on campaign finance reform and Ted Kennedy on immigration. McCain drew only 26 percent of the conservative vote in South Carolina Saturday.

Support from the base will be crucial in upcoming contests: McCain now faces a bevy of state primaries where independents are not allowed to participate, beginning with Florida’s vote on January 29. But the Arizona senator is predicting that his support among veterans, his economic proposals, and his record on environmental issues important to many Floridians will carry him to victory there.

Related video: Watch Dana Bash's interview with Sen. McCain

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

Filed under: John McCain • South Carolina primary
soundoff (107 Responses)
  1. JC

    As a lifelong conservative, I could never vote for McCain. Amnesty, gun control, abridging our free speech, only a couple of the wrong sides MCan has been on. He is a conservative pretender.

    January 21, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  2. Schnarfe

    @ Mike VE:

    1. Mitt might not have been in Washington for years like McLame, Clinton, and Obama... actually Obama has been in Washington for less than four years... so don't flip-flop (like your preferred candidate) and make the argument that Obama has insufficient experience.

    2. Mitt is playing an ultra-conservative. As Governor of Mass, he had a socially moderate (centrist), fiscally conservative (right-center) record. Some would say that he was socially liberal (or at least left-center), and fiscally moderate.

    3. Mitt flip-flopped on this too. Rudy really called Mitt on it when he pointed out how Romney hired illegals. Only three or four GOP contenders had a hard stance on illegal immigration. Two of them are out. That one of them (Tancredo) endorsed Mitt should be taken as nothing more than Machiavellian oportunism or Rovian manipulation. Ron Paul has the strongest stance on this issue, followed by Thompson.

    4. Mitt did little to lower taxes in MA. Mitt is a neocon like almost all the other candidates and would do nothing to lower spending (having to fund the American Empire and subsidize the military-industrial complex), and while Obama or a Democrat would not cut taxes or the budget, at least they would change spending priorities, providing more money for AMERICANS. Which is worse domestic welfare socialism (left-wing Keynesianism), or foreign welfare socialism (nation building) and corporatism (right-wing Keynesianism). Both parties are for a mixed market and big spending. The key difference is higher taxes (Democrats) or higher deficit (new GOP). It is clear that the liberal Democrats are the lesser of two evils. They might not be very prudent, but at least their hearts are in the right place. Neocons don't have hearts. If you want a REAL fiscal conservative, one who would cut taxes AND spending, who would decrease the budget, allow the deficit to be paid off, abolish the federal income tax, and end the American Empire, then you only have one option: RON PAUL, the only alternative to left-liberal Democrats and neoconservative Republicans.

    5. What do you mean by conservative and liberal judges? Sounds like another meaningless dichotomy. More divisive labels! I have no problem with someone like Ruth Bader Ginsberg, even though she is probably too "liberal" for you. Personally my recent favorite SC justice is Sandra Day O'Connor. Too bad she retired. She was fairly moderate. How about more moderate judges? You guys can keep Sam Alito, but I am glad William Renquist left! Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia need to leave as soon as possible. We do not need any more reactionary far-right nuts on the Supreme Court! But Mitt says he will appoint conservative, not liberal judges. So he says today...

    6. Mitt promised Michigan jobs. How is a fiscal conservative supposed to make good on the promise? McCain is a big government corporatist hack, but at least he did not promise that the federal government would provide more jobs.

    7. This statement is just idiotic: "Mitt will fight to protect this country and build a strong military; Obama, Clinton and John McLaim stood by when al-Qaeda attacked our interests in the 1990 and the 1980s." First of all, Mitt dodged service in Vietnam to convert French Catholics to Mormonism. Talk about someone who would fight to protect this country and build a strong military! Second of all, how could you really blame Obama, Clinton, or McLaim when Obama wasn't even in the federal government at the time, or when Ronald Reagan oversaw the CIA basically aid Al Quaeda against them godless Soviet pinko commies in Afghanistan and Governor Bush spent his entire first year in the Oval Office on vacation?

    8. Mitt is the right change for America? If this is not Orwellian doublespeak, I don't know what is. Mitt = More of the Same!

    January 21, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  3. Albo

    If John McCain wins the RNC nomination, then I'll have to support him, only because the DNC candidates are very weak and born socialists. Hopefully, Rudy or Mitt will pull off the upset though...

    January 21, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  4. Anonymous, Somewhere, MI

    I will NEVER vote for Mitt Romney. Huckabee is affable and civil, I can cast a vote there. Thompson is done, but at least I could have held my nose one that one. Not with Mitt. If he's the nominee, I'll wait to see what Bloomberg does. If Bloomberg doesn't get in, the Dems have my vote.

    January 21, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  5. Jared C.

    Mitt is leading in delegates, popular vote, overall wins, and is the man with the experience, leadership, and morals we need. He will get the job done. He has campaigned everywhere and will united the party.

    Romney will win Florida- watch for it- and he will be the nominee.

    January 21, 2008 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  6. Vince

    Go Mitt!

    It's funny how the left-wing media paints the major contenders into a corner. They say that Romney is the one for the financial conservatives. Huckabee for the social conservatives. And McCain and Rudy fighting it out for the national defense conservatives. Like we're sheep or something. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

    Mitt seems to be the best to rally all three elements of the so-called "Reagan Coalition." Call it what you want, but WE'RE going to come together next November despite the efforts by the media to show dissension in our ranks, even if it means supporting McCain or Rudy. Simply put, Hillary and Co. is not an option.

    Go Mitt!

    January 22, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  7. cao

    There is no difference between John McCain and John Kerry.

    No wait, there is. McCain is worse than John Kerry.

    See the website "Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain" – and see what they have to say about his turning information over to the communists that got pilots killed.

    He is no hero in my book – a hero like that deserves prison time- not the presidency.

    January 24, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
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