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. Kevin, Seattle

    Of course there's no republican support. You're NOT a republican! That's why a majority of your votes are from "independents." We all remember that Rudy and you stood by the democrats in 2004. Gave speeches at the DNC. If you win the nomination, you hand the white house over to your pals, the democrats. I don't think it's too crazy to suggest that many of them are voting for YOU, just for that to happen.

    January 20, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  2. Juliana

    I am a lifelong Republican and I will not vote in this election if he gets the nomination. He is a phony.

    January 20, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  3. BD

    John McCain did his duty 40 years ago in Vietnam. He was unlucky enough to get shot down and captured by the enemy. I respect him for surviving the hell that he and many other brave soldiers went through. All of them should have our sincere gratitude.

    That being said, we are now choosing our next President.

    Mr. John “ITS NOT AMNESTY, THEY HAVE TO PAY A SMALL FINE” McCain could never win the Presidency. McCain would even lose his home state of Arizona where they just repudiated him by enacting the harshest anti-illegal alien law in the nation.

    In 1987 Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to what they estimated to be 1 million illegal aliens. It was in reality 3 times that number. Now John McCain and the Democrats estimate that 12 million illegals are here now. Logically they are again greatly underestimating the real number. Under the plan, all of the illegals would be able to bring their entire families to the U.S. All of them would immediately be eligible for government assistance such as food stamps and healthcare. Last year in the Senate, John McCain lead a few misguided Republicans and almost all the Democrats in a failed attempt to pass the amnesty bill. It just barely failed. The Democratic Presidential candidates all support the amnesty bill. That bill will pass in 2009 unless we stop them.

    The media is doing its best to help the Democrats via John McCain. The Democrats would love to see a John McCain nomination

    A vote for McCain or Huckabee is a vote for the Democrats and economic failure.

    Mitt is the answer.

    January 20, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  4. Allan Jones

    McCain's inability to capture the GOP base will lead to his demise. Without that support he cannot possibly capture the nomination. My money's on Romney.

    January 20, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  5. Phillip Kay

    Thanks O thee Mormon faithful for your own brand of misinformation. McCain is genuine

    January 20, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  6. JD

    In regards to immigration, you have to realize that all of the past governments have lied to the American people. They have always pretended to be tough on immigration by making it harder to come to America, and at the same time, they have turned a blind eye to immigrants coming in, in order to help American manufacturing companies compete in global markets.

    Do you really think if the President really wanted to shut down illegal immigration, he couldn't do it? Instead, they've practically encouraged illegal immigration – Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter – it's the same story over again.

    I can't really blame people from a 3rd world nation for wanting to come here, especially when we're opening the gates for them and making it easy. They recognize that we are the greatest nation on Earth. They choose to be American. What's wrong with that?

    So, I say give those that have been living here for two years a more a way to stay here permanently – but no family. Then, put the real laws into place that actually stop illegal immigration instead of the two-faced BS we have seen in regards to immigration for the last 30 years.

    January 20, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  7. Bil TGH, Streamwood, IL

    I may have been in error about my previous views towards Senator McCain.

    John McCain's willingness to work with Democrats shows to me that atleast there is one Republican candidate who is willing to place country before party.

    That is a great big plus in my book. Conservative Republicans' attitude of "Do it our way or else" has damaged this country 's honor , credibility, economy and leadership at home and in the world.

    Maybe Senator McCain has, after all, practical answers to our problems.

    I am certainly giving him a second look.

    And BTW, any Republican candidate that wins primaries in a Northern State and a conservative Southern state must be considered a front-runner this early in the game.

    January 20, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  8. Mike

    McCain is a RINO. His stances on Gun Control and Immigration are way to liberal for me. There is only one Republican running that can beat either Hillary or Obama ( most likely Hillary) and it is not McCain. To me, it doesn't really matter which of the front runners of either party get elected – they are all, with one exception, just more of the same. This country is headed down the path of self destruction and unless it changes its foreign policy, will not survive as a "super power" too much longer. The currency is devaluing at an alarming pace and trying to be the worlds policeman will eventually destroy it.

    January 20, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  9. Tom Dedham, Mass

    I respect this man greatly and he would make a great addition to the Romney cabinet.

    You can disagree with him on issues, but to suggest that he is other than an honorable man is flat out dishonest.

    Clinton's have NO honor between them, this man is the epitomy of the word.

    January 20, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |

    As a Republican speaking my mind....IF this dishonest, manipulative, backstabbing freak of nature somehow gets elected??? I'm either not voting at all – OR maybe... depending on who they field... the Democrats (heaven forbid). McCain (and Huckabee as well )is that repugnant to me. HILLARY would be better than this piece of filth. And that's pretty darned bad.

    January 20, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  11. Jose Card - Independent

    McCain is right.
    The weak Republican turnout is an unclear indication of anything.
    Those that will vote in the S.C. Democratic primary may be Independents.
    I, for one, will vote in the Dem primary for Obama.

    For our sake, I want to have the best qualified candidate from each party in the general election.

    January 20, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  12. Ed Zachary

    The really revealing thing from the South Carolina primary is that, even in the Bible belt, Huckabee polls only 30%. That's his core strength and it's not going to get any better. The rest of the Republican Party wants a president, not a preacher in the White House.

    January 20, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  13. Michael

    These comments are foolish, and downright wrong. McCain is the only canidate that has shown in poll after poll, after poll to beat EITHER Clinton or Obama in the general election-and that's all that matters. The Republican Party is more than a group of religious zealots, and it's a breath of breth of fresh air. Go Johnny, Go!

    January 20, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  14. Paul Simpson, Beaumont, Texas

    This Republican won't be voting McCain. Hmmmmm...who are the Libertarians putting out this year?

    January 20, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  15. Class Warfare

    Eight years of the pigs at the trough is enough.

    January 20, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  16. Jared, New Orleans, LA

    Yes, the Democrats really hope McCain is the nominee considering he is the only Republican who is ahead of Clinton and Obama in just about every poll out there. You are an idiot. Look at what Romney did in MA. He is not a real conservative. The difference between Romney and McCain is that Romney lies about his moderate positions.

    January 20, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  17. Kay

    McCain has campaigned on "cutting spending", but I noticed that when Dana Bash questioned him this morning, he never answered her question. She asked him that if Congress voted for a tax rebate, would he support it even if the bill had no spending cuts included. He would not say that would not support it. Further his attitude was rather arrogant, reminded me of Bush.

    Tax rebates would be great, "IF" there are spending cuts. Otherwise, our huge debt will get even worse.

    January 20, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  18. john

    How right you are about the Democrats wanting McCain. The cover of
    today's LA Times had pictures of McCain and Hillary as victors on Saturday
    ...but none of Romney! Also, their names in bold print while Romney's in
    smaller print, further down. The Times is a bastion of liberalism. If they
    can't manage Huckabee, Sheriff McCain will do just as well.

    January 20, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  19. K. Wilkinson

    No Way McCain!

    Romney 2008!

    January 20, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  20. arfisher, Midlothian, VA

    I once read that President John F. Kennedy was conducting a press conference and discussing his position on an issue. When he was finished, a reporter pointed out that the president's stance appeared to be the exact opposite of his previously stated position on the matter, to which Kennedy replied, "Yes, I've changed my mind."
    In today's political climate, many would have slammed Kennedy for being a "flip-flopper."

    It seems reasonable to believe that political leaders of any stripe better serve their constituents when they allow changing circumstances, more information, and better insights to move them toward positions contrary to ones they may have previously espoused. Do we really want elected officials who never change their minds, rigidly ignoring new circumstances and more realistic options? Or are we wiser to prefer individuals who are willing to learn, adapt, and adjust?

    Personally, I admire any person mature enough to reconsider a matter with serious reflection and then adopt a different course of action. The presidential candidates need to quit clubbing each other with "flip-flopper" accusations. Some of us find flexibility to be quite a valuable character trait.

    Lee D. Ellison. Moseley.

    January 20, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  21. Independent

    I think Mitt Romney has the potential to do a lot of good for this country, especially economically. As much as it pains me to say this... he can't beat Hillary. If the economy tanks, everyone is going to be really happy about Hillary's free healthcare promise. And if the economy recovers, Romney's strongest platforms will be overshadowed by talk about the war. The only way for Romney to have a chance in th general is if the threat of a crash is looming but does not pass – that's a long time for the country to be afraid.

    I really like McCain, and I would love to see a McCain/Lieberman ticket transform Washington, but I think Mitt is the best man to protect my financial well-being.

    January 20, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  22. dan shore


    January 20, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  23. Juan Carlos(Vegas)

    What are the evangelicals going to do if McCain wins the nomination? Will they vote for Hillary? Are they going to move to Canada or Mexico? LOL With McCain we know what we are getting, but Mitt, HOW MANY times he has changed his mind?

    January 20, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  24. ronnie knoxville tn

    Sorry John, but anyone who teams up with Ted Kennedy is not a conservative !

    January 20, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  25. james

    this is a joke "vote for mccain because he is beating obama and clinton......" o brother !!!!!! NEWSFLASH !!!! if obama wins the democratic nomination and people vote strictly on substance, then he will get absolutely destroyed in any debate against any republican he faces !!!not to mention, once people actually start to get interested in the issues, there is no way that a majority of the people in this country will want to raise taxes, have socialized health care(the government cant run anything), amnesty for illegals.....please!!! the only person that obama could beat in a debate is mccain, because they have no differences..neither has any substance, they are both democrats and obama is more likeable...and as for billary, well 50% of the country wont vote for her already>>>many dems will jump ship if she wins the nom and no GOPers will jump ship, so she loses right off the bat !!! plus, if those clinton archives papers ever are released, where everyone can see the actual experience that she talks about (and really doesnt have) and the multple scandals within the archives and the substance or lack there of of her plan to move the country forward, well, she frankly hasnt got a prayer !!!! mccain isnt the republican answer !!!! the answer is debate after debate after debate..once the dems are in a debate, their numbers will plummit....in actuality, mccain, other than running on his pow status and continually repeating islamic-jihad and "pork barrell spending" he totally lack substance" especially as a republican...

    January 20, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
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