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. Dennis, El Segundo CA

    Once again, the media gets it wrong. Why all the media attention on IA, NH, and SC? Who gives a (favorite expletive here) about those states? Why does MI and NV get so little comparative attention? The media would love nothing more than to have the grandpa of the race, John McCain, win the Republican nomination. The guy looks like he needs a rest home, not the presidency. Anybody running against him with a pulse will win by a landslide.

    January 20, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  2. John Edwarss

    Insane McCain you are to old and will lose in FL!

    Go Mitt!

    January 20, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  3. David....Nevada

    McCain is a phony!!! a bonified phony who got his butt kicked here in Nevada.. Can't stand the lying a posturing from this man..
    ohh yeah... he wants to secure the southern boder and then continue his insistence on ram-rodding illegals and amnesty plans down our throats, along with his old buddy ted kenndy, naturally ... when ted says jump.... john says "how high"?
    Romney for responsible immigration..

    January 20, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  4. Mark, Tampa, FL

    McCain disgusts me. He is thoroughly a pro-war liberal. He lacks the temperament to be a leader. He campaigns as a "straight-talker", but has flip-flopped more than anyone- on tax cuts, on illegal immigration, on the war, the list goes on. Check out http://therealmccain.com/

    Romney is the only real conservative.

    January 20, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  5. Sal

    i think it's sad how, apparently, the repub's "party's base" is just a bunch of religious nuts. i like john mccain becasue he doesn't pander to ANYONE – he does what is right and what he thinks is best for EVERYONE not just his party's "base" and not just to get votes.

    do think that it was just a coincidence that huck declared that we re-write our constitutional according to the "word of god" two days before the sc primary? wow...if that's all it takes to get you people's votes, then i should run for president! i can say anything you want to hear anytime of the day. you people can't handle a straight talker – you'd rather someone lie to you and tell you what you want to hear becasue you're so narrow-minded and resistant to anything outside of your little box.

    it's people like you that cause politicians to have to lie and pander to us – you won't vote for them otherwise. you're so thick and all you care about is yourselves – not what's best for everyone or the country.

    mcccain's a conservative in many aspects; just because he isn't standing on a soap box pandering to the religious rights does not make him any less of a republican, just a decent, sensible one. i'm an independent and i consider myself a social liberal (live and let live) but a fiscal conservative and mccain to me is the best of both worlds. he still has morals but is also sensible and realistic.

    for all of you who say that he's not a real republican, where are you getting this from? he IS the defintion of a conservative – which means a hands-off government. your other candidates are the ones who are obseesed with controlling people's personal lives and want to pass constitutional amendments on everything under the sun. since when was immigration policy determined to be a party issue?

    you people are so narrow-minded you take one or two issue and label the man a liberal – illegals were not going to get amnesty you idiots! and where are these illegals now? they're in our country, with no one even knowing who they are, where they are, not paying taxes, and sucking up our social services. if you let them report that they are here, we could tax them, keep track of them, they wouldn't fear coming forward as victims or witnesses to crime, we could find and deport the ones who have committed crimes, and they'd be responsible for their own mecial bills because we'd know who they are, where they live, where they work, etc. but oh no, let's NOT do the SENSIBLE thing, let's be a bunch of moronic, irrational, idiots. we'd also being fining them ($5000-$8000 for all you "small fine" people) so they'd have to pay their own way into the country, unlike current INS rules where it's all paid for by the taxpayer. what is your solution? something had to be done and you people missed the boat.

    and god forbid he work with other members of congress!!! even though his record is clearly, consistently conservative. the only way to get anything accomplished is through cooperation with both parties – hello people!!!!! what planets are you living on?

    "oh no – he didn't originally support bush's tax cuts – he's not one of us!" first of all, you can't cut taxes without cutting spending, otherwise you just build up debt that has to be paid back with interest. hence, he is the real conservative becasue not creating debt saves money. your mr. bush has only given you tax cuts at the expense of our national debt and has done absolutely nothing to correct wasteful spending, including the $150 million bonus the fed gave to his buddy Halliburton for "a job well-done."

    as for you "war-monger" people – the president is our COMMANDER IN CHIEF just in case you forgot – and a lot of dems, such as clinton, voted for the war so what are you crying about? also, mccain was the ONLY one who had it right at the very get-go; if he had been president, the war would have been mission accomplished YEARS ago instead of the mess it is now. at least with mccain, if we had to go to war, it'd be done right. you only have yourselves to blame for electing the dumbest, most worthless president of all time, and his mess of an administration.

    STOP VOTING FOR YOUR "FAMILY VALUES" AND MAYBE WE CAN ACTUALLY GET SOMETHING ACCOMPLISHED IN THIS COUNTRY. the president is not a legislator – go write your senator and other representatives if you care soooooo much about what other people do with their lives and bodies. the last values guy you voted for massacred thousands of innocent iraqis. good going, "values" voters.

    traditionally, i've voted democratic, but if mccain gets the nomination i am serioulsy considering voting for him, as i'm sure a lot of other independents are.

    January 20, 2008 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  6. Bo

    we're voting for a president for goodness sake, not a moral authority. if you need a moral authority, go to church and shut up already.

    they should rename the republican party the "holier than thou" party.

    January 20, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  7. Carrie

    Years ago, John McCain should have switched parties or started another real party. The Republican Machine has treated this American Hero with so much disrespect. I like Sen. McCain because he works with both Republicans and Democrates. If more were like him, DC would be a better place and things would be done.

    But, NO, Republicans will nominate someone else. The Democrats will nominate Hillary Clinton. The same old, same old: angry and fighting in DC will continue. Then, fours years from now, all of us will be debating the same thing because nothing has CHANGE. You get the country that you deserve!

    Obama 08

    January 20, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  8. Darrell Groves

    At 70 years of age, I know first hand that health issues will get in the way of his presidency if he is elected. What are the meds he is taking? Did I detect him limping or stumbling to the podium at his victory speech in South Carolina? Although I am a year younger, he looks older than I do. Listen to one who is there, afternoon naps are more important than presidential issues at this age.

    January 20, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  9. Mike McKibben

    Where I am leaning towards McCain in the general election, if he makes it that far, I was a little taken back today by what he plans to do with the economy. What he is saying is very much like all the other Republican candidates are saying. Cutting spending sounds great, but one of the biggest expenditures now facing us is the cost of the two wars. I don't see cuts being made there. Then we have the ol' middle class tax breaks................which middle class, the $500K and above crowd, or the $250K down crowd? I'm still waiting for my Bush tax breaks, so making Bush's tax breaks permanent is great for a select few, but we see where they got us at this point in time. That will be the 9 trillion deficit and a hurting economy for which I am referring to.

    The corp tax rates should be lowered but that won't solve problems on the bottom end if there is a continued trade deficit and American jobs are continued to be off shored. If anything, this common Republican practice has resulted in the current problems faced in our economy. A few get the gold, and everyone else gets the shaft. 2/3's of the US economy is the American consumer, and we are about tapped out.

    Business deregulation is a strong talking point with some of the Republican candidates. Smaller government is the cry...............the only cry I heard was ENRON, Dialpha, Wall Street scandals, and the current mortgage meltdown. Who will be watching the hen house?

    January 20, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  10. John N., Denver, CO

    I'm a Republican, but will NOT vote for McCain after his amnesty nonsense in 2007. I'll stay the hell home on election day.

    January 20, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |

    $PROUD TEXAN$ Thanks for electing and sending us the last bunch of horse thieves.Is that you Governor Goodhair?Or is it proud Carl?Just keep tossin your cow-patties and chewin your backie.

    January 20, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  12. Anna in Iowa

    People are going to poll with names they know or guys that appear to be in lead. Everyone wants a winner. I don't even know how the media could be calling a front runner so early and now they are backing down. Romney had the most delegates and votes yet so how McCain was the front runner in a race that is too early to call.

    Independences and democrats want McCain in the White House so why run under the Republican party? It is obvious. Look how many newspapers are endorsing McCain. I GOOGLED ROMNEY'S WIN AND GOT A PICTURE OF MCCAIN. There was no article for Romney, no picture. The article link was for McCain.... so who looks like the BIGGER WINNER... MCCAIN. FORGET IF YOU LIKE ROMNEY OR MCCAIN, THERE IS A BIG PUSH TOWARDS MCCAIN IN THE NEWS. That kind of stuff will have influence in polls but I am not so sure it will carrying into voting.

    I looked up Romney because it was a huge win. I know there are a lot of Mormons in Nevada but according to the polls, he still would have won without them.

    With most newspapers ready to praise McCain at every opportunity... of course MCCAIN would look like a winner. There has been a lot more people taking interest than before. A lot more people will be at the polls this coming election, a lot more than 2004.

    It has been wide-open from the beginning. It is still very in the game to say that we any front runner. This is not one perfect candidate in this race... each one has their faults but McCain still doesn't come close to my top two.

    I would like to see more fair and balanced coverage from at least one news channel.

    January 20, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  13. Roger from MA

    He should behave like a bigot, pander to religious whackos, or become a sexual deviant.

    Judging by the politicians who Republicans tend to support, I think this is his best option to gain their support.

    January 20, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  14. pam Eugene OR

    What is really scary is that he barely beat that nut case Huckabee. Hopefully when we leave the land of the rednecks the republican will vote with more sanity. Huckabee, please take that flagpole and ride it right out of my country. I thought Hillary was a divider but you almost make her look reasonable. Please note I said almost!

    January 20, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  15. ronnie knoxville tn

    To "Alice Newman" – no one said GWB is conservative. You're going off point. John McCain is the person discussed here. BTW, how many times do you libs have to be reminded that GEORGE WALKER BUSH is not running for President of The United States.

    January 20, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  16. David....Nevada

    Independents cant save ya McCain. All the gloating n independents cant rescue you cause all true conservative gop'rs wont vote for you and your smoozing of kennedy's amnesty plan.

    January 20, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  17. Mechelle

    Romney all the way!

    Who cares if the media is not giving him the credit he deserves. It is going to back fire! It creates sympathy for the underdog. It shows discrepancy between what is real and what the media is reporting and we fight even harder for that person.

    The business savvy and educated individuals in the GOP know Romney is the real deal. Right will prevail. CNN and FOX will be exposed for their bias.

    McCain supporters are stuck in a lost decade (90's). He is not the front runner, nor has he been since this race started. It's called "propaganda" and it's hurting his chances, not helping.

    Hickabee has actually created more problems for the evangelicals. We all now know who are enemies are. We all know their bias and bigotry towards almost any walk of life still exists. We don't tolerate "intolerance" anymore.

    January 20, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  18. Andy

    Does anybody remember McCain last year in the following:

    Illegal Aliens do the jobs Americans won't do. McCain had the nerve to challenge the American people that he would pay $50 an hour to anyone who would come to his ranch and work the fields the way the Illegal Aliens do.

    Remember the phrase "JOBS AMERICANS WON'T DO?"



    January 20, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  19. Big Al

    McCain didn't get a big win, he only got 33% of the vote in an open primary. McCain is a loser for Republicans-that is why he is being pushes by the liberal MSM>

    January 20, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  20. AK

    rachel lanore January 11, 2008 10:15 pm ET

    What does all this say about McCain's character? These blurbs are from goggling his wives…. Carol, Cindy… wow…

    According to the newspaper, McCain returned to Jacksonville in 1973 after more than five years as a prisoner of war to find that his wife was a different person. Carol McCain, once a model, had been badly injured in a car wreck in 1969. The article recounts that her injuries "left her 4 inches shorter and on crutches, and she gained a good deal of weight."
    By 1979, McCain was concerned that his Naval career was not advancing and pondering his future. He met Cindy Hensley, an attractive 25-year-old woman from a wealthy Arizona family. McCain courted her and married her in May 1980 — a month after getting a divorce.
    Carol McCain waited for the return of her husband from his Vietnamese captivity for five and a half long years; as McCain idolator David Grann put it in the New Republic, she was "a kind of modern-day Penelope to McCain's Odysseus." She carried her burden with nobility, and resolve, staying faithful to the man she refused to believe she had lost – even in the face of her own tragedy. It was Christmas Eve, 1969, while driving along a snowbound street, that she went crashing into a telephone pole: the impact hurled her through the windshield. She lost her left leg, ruptured her spleen, and went through a long series of agonizingly painful operations. Before the accident, she had been a statuesque beauty who worked as a model; she came out of it with four inches subtracted from her height, broken in body – but not in spirit. Her love for her war hero husband forbade her from letting him know anything of her condition: he knew nothing of the accident, and she refused to write him about it since it would only make his burden heavier.

    From Justin's website;
    Any man would be lucky to have such a fierce, unbending love: she stuck by him, agitating for his release, and living for the day of his return. Her devotion was repaid with rejection. He learned of her accident on the plane home, and wasted no time in getting rid of her. He was soon back to his old tricks of playing the field – "just as he had at the Naval Academy," says Grann – and soon sought a divorce. He openly acknowledges that his behavior was solely responsible for the break-up of his marriage, and seems to glory in the macho role while simultaneously professing at least some sense of remorse: "I think she has reason to be bitter," McCain told one interviewer.

    I think this is going to be a problem again for Him, plus the Keating Five.

    Giuliani has good company here, folks. Womanizing Adulterers who left their wives for younger women. In McCain's case, at least she was pretty.
    Romney, Huckabee, or Ron Paul for President, please.

    January 20, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  21. Michael

    He lost the republican vote by 1% according to the exit polls. That is well within the margin of error.

    How in the hell is that "weak republican support"?

    CNN should be ashamed of this article.

    January 20, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  22. mr.fair tax


    January 20, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  23. Mark Supple

    Here we go again, with all the anti-McCain whiners. They try to put down the man that actually has and continues to DO something for his country because of patriotism and not because self-interest as many others do. The whiners usually hide anonymously behind their computer screens. I'll bet that most have never volunteered to do anything for their country.

    That Senator McCain thinks that his country is a higher priority than the Republican Party is not a negative but a positive. He is first an American and second a Republican, which is why he will win the Primary and the National election, because most Americans are not driven by ideology. Now think about it… do you want someone who places America first in his priorities or someone who places his/her political party or political agenda ahead of his/her country. I will pick someone who has consistently shown that he places his country ahead of any agenda, including himself, be it as a POW (Senator McCain could have left), as a senator (some of his positions don't thrill the establishment) or his popularity (he will not win the Ms Congeniality award in DC). Other candidates just tell us what they think we want to hear and switch their position accordingly because it is best for them, not because it is best for the US

    I may not agree with McCain in all his choices, but I do know that all his choices will be based (and have been based) on what he believes to be best for the US and not for himself. Our first decision on choice for President must be for someone who places the US ahead of any other agenda (including his/hers), and Senator McCain has shown and proven he does that over any other candidate.

    January 20, 2008 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  24. steve a wilmington

    John McCain is a war hero. He is respected. But has no business running the country. He is not to old. His immigration and economics are not Republican, let alone conservative. He won military support in South Carolina and that is all. The military men and their wives are not paying attention to the issues.

    January 20, 2008 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  25. Phillip Kay

    I don't care what misinformation O thee Mormon faithful post , he ain't too old. Romney is a fraud. Nuff said

    January 20, 2008 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
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