January 30th, 2008
09:40 AM ET
15 years ago

Exit polls: Conservatives choose Romney over McCain

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/30/art.mccain.ap.jpg caption="Romney beat McCain among conservatives in Florida."](CNN) - John McCain has long had trouble courting the most conservative members of his party, and exit polls of Florida Republican primary voters show a sizeable number continued not to support him.

According to the exit polls, 62 percent of primary voters identified themselves as conservative and 37 percent of them voted for Mitt Romney, compared to the 29percent who went for McCain. That McCain continues to lose among his party's most conservative members could provide a small opening for Romney heading into super Tuesday.

But McCain was the overwhelming favorite among the 28 percent of Republican voters who identified themselves as moderate, and the 11 percent who said they were liberal. The Arizona senator beat Romney among moderates 43-21 percent, and among liberals 49 percent to 24 percent.

The Florida Republican primary was a key test for McCain - it was the first major early contest that bars voters who are registered Independents - a group that has been crucial to McCain's earlier wins.

"Florida has always been a special place to me, and it is even more so tonight," McCain said to supporters during his victory speech. "Our victory might not have reached landslide proportions, but it is sweet nonetheless."

- CNN Producer Alexander Mooney

Filed under: Exit Polls • Florida
soundoff (182 Responses)
  1. Christine

    McCain is the flip flopper! He admits his state has the worst border corossing problem in the country. Why didn't he fix it? If he can"t help his own state how can he help the country? First he was not for the border fence, now he is for it(flip). He fought the Bush tax cuts, Now he will make them permanent (flop). By the way, if all the illegals in Arizona get amnesty they can vote and guess who will benifit from that?

    January 30, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  2. Patty, Atlanta GA

    They are both awful. McCain cheated on his wife and Romney is a goulish witch. Only Gov. Huckabee understands Jesus and his role in US futures.

    January 30, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  3. Frank, Waverly, NY

    Conservatives support Romney? I doubt that.

    January 30, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  4. John

    To eve in Atlanta, candidates with integrity are not dishonest. McCain is dishonest, and he cannot unite the Republican party that he has been betraying for the past 8 years or so. He may be getting a few votes, but from the numbers it looks like he barely got half the votes that Hillary got. He won't get my vote...ever.

    January 30, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  5. Robert Bell

    This is GOOD NEWS for John McCain.

    Both the Far Left and the Far Right have to learn that "their" candidates are not electable.

    The majority of the population is more middle of the road, and is not interested in Religous Republicans or Socialist leaning Democrats.

    The Fall election will be won by the candidate that appeals more toward the middle of the spectrum, and more to the middle than George Bush.

    A far left candidate will NOT WIN, and neither will a candidate that tries to appeal to far-right idealogy.

    John McCain will get a lot of Democratic cross-over voters – people who want CHANGE but who do NOT WANT HILLARY.

    People like me, for example.

    The far right, confronted with a choice between HILLARY or McCAIN will vote for McCain, that is unless some crackpot 3rd party candidate gets into the race.

    I am sure the Hillary camp is looking into that right now. They have enough money to fund a doomed Bloomberg candidacy...

    January 30, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  6. Paul in Kissimmee

    This is why I was on the fence about McCain. I did vote for him however because I think he's the best candidate for us in the general. I don't have a problem with him for working with the Dems on certain issues, we are all Americans. He will not raise our taxes like the liberals would. He does believe in a strong military. He will win the war in Iraq. We don't need a Dem to go in there and raise our taxes to pay for lazy and unmotivated people or paint a yellow streak down our back and pull out of Iraq.

    January 30, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  7. ne,pa

    McCain =angry and trigger happy.
    God help us!

    January 30, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  8. California Independent

    I have been a Dem for many years and one reason I became Independent is the illegal immigration issue. Come on Republicans! McCain?! What are you doing?!

    To Ted: yes, I like Ron Paul, but he is too intelligent to get elected. He understands monetary policy, fiscal issues, etc. People want issues discussed but these complex issues confound the other candidates and never get any traction. I don't know that the average debate attendee can understand these issues either. They are either rude or stupid. I put my money on the latter.

    January 30, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  9. Cami

    I am disappointed with Florida! McCain is an ornery old man who will probably die in office! And he's way to liberal to be running on the Republican ticket. Not that I don't respect his service to this country, but there is just no way he can lead it!

    There is only one true conservative in this race and that is Mitt Romney!

    GO MITT!

    January 30, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  10. Mary

    I am definitely not a conservative, but am pulling hard for McCain to oust Romney in the Republican race. Someone summed it up the other day for me with regard to Romney in describing him as a "Stepford politician". That description hit the nail on the head....

    January 30, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  11. John

    Does anyone really support McCain because of his positions on the issues, or do they just vote for him because they think he can beat Hillary? That's a pretty stupid reason to vote for someone, but I have heard a lot of people say that they are voting for McCain because they think he has the best shot at beating Hillary. (and I'm sure the rest of you have too).

    January 30, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  12. Susan, Fort Pierce, Florida

    You Republicans are a joke. Your candidates are falling all over each other over which one is more "conservative". LOL , its the "conservative" agenda that has caused most of the problems that this country is facing now! IDIOTS!

    McCain wants to continue the war and is a hawk to the bone.

    Romney has a "CEO" mentality, is in the pocket of Big Business, and would have a tendancy to treat american citizens like "employees". We do not need another "CEO" president. The Citizens are susposed to be the "CEO,S", remember!

    Huckabee wants to make this country into a Christian version of Saudi Arabia. Is everyone ready for a Theocracy?

    Vote Democrat!!

    January 30, 2008 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  13. Robyn

    While I do admire the fact the Mr. McCain served our country that does not make him qualified to handle the economics of it. I would have a very hard time supporting someone who is so hotheaded because we don't need someone who has an anger management problem. We need a clear thinker who knows the Constitution and Economics. I suggest that everyone review the record of Ron Paul. When the media giants don't want to tell you something you need to pay attention to that person. How many times have you said that regarding previous elections after they were all done? Let's get it right this time and vote for someone who has a PROVEN record of following the constitution, which is what we elect people to do.

    January 30, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  14. Shawn

    Enough said!, MCcain won Florida and it proves that He can and will win the nomination..remember Florida voters had to be registered Republicans to vote so no Independents could vote... Go MCcain!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's going to take someone like him because we need someone that does what most of them to their going to do..He reaches across the aisle and works with the other party...Wake up America, we need someone like this more than ever now, it's the middle of the road where you'll find the most people. Not the far left and right...this is fading out and not fast enough.

    January 30, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  15. Dan

    I want a recount!

    January 30, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  16. Matt

    Save the economy, save the word.

    Vote for Mitt.

    January 30, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  17. GOP supporter

    McCain appeals to enough liberal and moderate voters to pull this off. When people go to the polls in November they are going to ask themselves two things. Do I want more taxes? Who's most qualified to keep this nation safe? Again, no experience on the other side.

    January 30, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  18. Bob

    First, Huckabee is a religoius bigot!!!! UNACCEPTABLE.

    Second, McCain is just more inside the Washington Belt-way "good ol boy" "do nothing" politics. The only thing he is interested in is the seeling of the US Canada and Mexico being turned into the North American Union.


    Third, Ron Paul and Romney are the only REAL CONSERVATIVES running.who have not been compromised by the United Nations. Ron Paul doesn't have the money nor the backing of enough people even though he is the stronger constitutionalist of the two.

    That leaves Romney who, in my opinion, is by far more conservative than McCain or Guliani ever DREAMED of being. Romney may have changed his mind on some issues, but he moved in a much more conservative direction when he did change his mind. Romney reminds me of Raegan more than any other candidate. He is a great communicator and he has some morals. He's never been divorced, he's never cheated on his wife, he says what he thinks (even if it costs him votes), AND HE"LL DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION TO THE DEATH!!

    January 30, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  19. Prasad

    Mccain cant win the presidendy. He has been in the senate longer than 18 years. Its just cold hard stats. I hope the republican party looks for someone winnable.

    January 30, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  20. Bob, NY

    Not getting the majority of the conservative vote will not hurt McCain because these are the same voters that will wade through hell to vote against Hillary.

    If fact, not getting the majority of the conservative vote will probably be the help he needs to draw away the independents and disenfranchised black voters that Bill has put off with his race baiting. Just the edge he needs to win in Nov. And you dems have no one to blame but yourselves. Get ready for another republican president, curtious of the clintonians..., again.

    January 30, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  21. Catch22

    Looks like conservatism is no longer the standard for the Republican Party. The Party truly resembles the Democrat Party in that voters are increasingly moderate or liberal. There is not one iota of difference between McCain and the Democrat Party's combo of Hillary/Obama. Some choice we conservatives have. I venture to predict that if McCain is the Republican Party nominee, not only will numerous voters sit out the November election, but it will portend the end of the Republican Party. Which means it will make it "ripe" for a third, Conservative Party, to emerge.

    January 30, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  22. Bob

    If what the ultra liberal rag "Time" says is true, "that the old conservative Republican Party no longer exists", then it is time to back a party that IS, in truth, conservative.

    Perhaps the Constitution Party needs the support of the true conservatives and let the moderates and the liberals who parade around as Republicans "go down the tube".

    This would break up the strangle hold that the Democrats and the Republicans have had on the politics of this country for the last 75+ years.

    January 30, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  23. Turn out the lights...

    McCain's win in Florida proves that sometimes lies do work!

    January 30, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  24. Constitutional Law Professor

    Dear Bren,

    have you read the constitution? like... ever? the Constitution of this country is not "all about the separation of church and state" and the very ideas (and misconceptions) that we have today about the "separation of church and state" originate from a phrase in a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote. The Supreme Court used this letter and others to help them get a better understanding of the constitution, and the people behind it. Please stop flaunting your ignorance, get away from the computer, and go read a constitutional law textbook (any one will do).


    January 30, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  25. Al, Sacramento Ca

    McCain will win the nomination. Romney is a rich phony, flip-flopper. Huckabee, an Evangelical Christian, don't need to say more.

    That should tell all Republicans that American is looking for progression. At least McCain is steadfast on his beliefs but that will not land him the White House. Hillary or Obama will take him down.

    As far as Hillary in Florida, no democrats campaigned there but she is already strategically representing Democratic Floridans come November specially when 1.5 million voted.

    January 30, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
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