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. William Brown

    No question Romney is the best-qualified candidate. Unfortunately, America is missing a chance to finally elect a well-educated, intelligent man with many real accomplishments. McCain is a beaureacrat who spent 25 year in senate doing nothing. America, wake up!

    January 30, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  2. Attacks by the Establishment on Ron Paul Continue

    Hey TED, I agree.

    It is not hard to believe voters (registered voters for a certain party) have forgotten how this country was built in the first place. The Founding Fathers would not like the way we have given Presidents dictator status when it comes to creating and funding wars around the world! The Congress (just ask Paul if you don't have time to read the Constitution and the words of Patrick Henry and others) is suppose to declare war and fund the war for all the people if the war is justified!

    Neither party will abide by the original Constitution. It will be the S.O.S. as we say in the Confederate States of America. Both parties will continue to disregard the will of the people along with States Rights and all other issues designed to give power to the people and take power away from politicians!

    The neo-cons pitching a fit are getting what they deserve. Liberal McCain types have taken over the party for the time being and the big defense contractors are licking their lips and getting ready to put their sticky fingers on our tax money when the war hawks from both sides of the aisle return to office!

    After the election (if you call it that) when people (media and establishment) have stopped ignoring Ron Paul they will be once again glad to see him in Congress vetoing tax hikes and unconstitutional laws while the establishment keeps socking it to the American people who, after all, will be getting what they voted for once more!

    January 30, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  3. brandie tampa

    McCain wants another 50-60 years of war. Romney hires immigrants then fires them & campaigns against them...

    Republicans have blood on their hands. Murderers of nearly 4000 soldiers-if not more!!!!
    Supporting a war in Iraq over oil & control. NOT focusing on the true dangers to the U.S. Al-Queda in AFGHANISTAN. THAT is where the terrorists came from. Where did this Iraq "WAR" come from???????

    BUSHY's vendetta from daddy bush.


    EVERY republican should be drafted & sent to Iraq--NOT the guys who have been there for the past 7 years!!!!!!!!!!! YOU VOTE FOR A WAR----YOU SHOULD HAVE THE KAHONAS TO FIGHT IN IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    OUR troops DON'T deserve this!!!!!!!!! Afghanistan is a danger-and pakistan as well!!!!!!!!!!! THIS comment won't be posted or read EITHER because it actually holds TRUTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 30, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  4. Arielle


    We had Romney as Governor. He isn't a "conservative". I put it in quotations, because "conservative" used to be someone like myself – fiscally responsible, small government, laissez-faire on social issues.

    Now it's become equated with bible-thumping, hate-mongering, oppressive-police-state ideologies. So now, I am "declined to state" .

    "Conservative" today may be Pat Buchanan or Lou "KILL THEM!" Dobbs, but it's not Mitt Romney. He'll become moderate as soon as he gets in.

    I will say that if Hillary Clinton is the democratic nominee, I plan to vote for McCain. I'd vote for a Republican over a racist cheat, any day. McCain has a multi-ethnic family, and that means something. A man with an open mind, not clouded by petty ideas of the Billary Clan and their supporters. She's turning the democratic campaign into an electoral version of Sarajevo.

    January 30, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  5. Miguel

    I am really amazed at how little people have to criticize MItt for. Its like they are pulling at every little thing they can grab hold of. I suppose you are perfect. Who looks more like a president? Romney. Who has tried to live the American dream? Romney.

    The fact is McCain is a bit too old, he is done in Arizona after this,so he is desperate for what is next. Although I respect him and am grateful for his service during wartimes to our country, I have no respect for him in his private life. You see its ironic that everyone tosses out these crazy rumors about Mormons, like multiple wives, but "my friends" lisp, lisp- Mitt has had only one wife. Mitt did not marry into money like McCain, he EARNED every bit of his wealth, so please stop holding that against him, if you were smart you would try to learn from him, on how he he turned the American dream into wealth, instaead of holding it against him.

    I agree, Mitt appears too perfect ,he is not, but he is a leader, he is the right man for the economy, and if there is no money, then how are you going to pay for a war McCain send in Robin Hood? The media and the Democrats are afraid of Romney, not McCain, and his John's temper. Mitt analyzes things and studies things out, (I think thats what you get with an MBA and a J.D from Harvard) and I am sure he has learned from his change of opinion on abortion. Have you ever changed your opinion on something? One on one in the debates Romney always tears McCain apart, its not intentional Romney just is a better candidate.(unless of course it is a topic on waterboarding, because we are all so interested about that) And please no more "you see my friends " line....pretty please?

    I am curious as to your definition of flip flopping, because that is the only line McCains camp can come up with, I guess they could come after Romneys religion that would be easy, and usually requires no brain. But I think McCain flip flops too. For example, about 2 weeks ago, Romney was using statistics and facts in his comparison ads against McCain. Suddenly McCain came after Romney and called them dirty attack ads. McCain vowed never to open that "can of worms" but then he gets too Florida, and that is all he does attack ads, attack phone calls, etc. Is that not flip flopping, or just lying? Dare I bring up McCains record for tax breaks and cuts? Too easy..again flip flopping. I am so tired of hearing about it. If you care about the economy and fresh ideas and want a true conservative you vote for Romney. If you are a robot for Washington and scared for change, and eager to watch the economy tank you vote for McCain…its that simple

    January 30, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  6. Kevin

    Just thank God that all four top candidates (Romney,Mccain,Obama,Clinton) have atleast some since..I dont think I or even America could handle a president like Bush who knows nothing about politics

    January 30, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  7. Brad

    I am a GOP backer but Romney seems to be the only real GOP candidate left what tha hell? McCain and LDS have more incommon than Romney and LDS. But ether would be better than Hillary or Obama

    January 30, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  8. Max Power, Springfeild

    HAHAHA. All you conservative robots can stop talking now and go home. Your man Romney is done and McCain will lose. There will be no more conservative influence in the executive branch and Congress will also have a real majority of Democrats after the beating the Republicans will take in Congressional elections. The sun has set on the conservatives for now and I advise you to all go home and lick your wounds and leave the job of fixing our country to the people that actually have the will and motivation to do it. I'm not saying they will but at least they will try. And that is more than I can say about any Republican. The conservatives have set us back 40-60 years. The revolution will be televised. Go America!

    January 30, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  9. Water

    McCain is all about old wars, old politics and nothing progressive. Nothing about economy or energy independence. "Let's just send MORE soldiers after our oil".

    January 30, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  10. Val Davydov, MA

    Rick Roberts, the conservative radio talk-show host said it best on Wednesday: "If McCain ends up being the nominee, I predict the lowest voter turnout for Republicans in my memory." This is very true – I hear a lot of people saying that.

    McCain WILL BE the nominee of the Republican party.

    McCain WILL LOSE general election in the landslide (either it's against Hillary or Obama).

    P.S.: I will not be voting in November. Sorry, McCain is just not the right person to lead our country into the future. He's been in Washington for quarter of a century. Has anything changed?

    January 30, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  11. Steve Blaine Washington

    Like McCain sid on NBC. He wants to stay in Iraq for another 100 years.
    Our economy will never servive another year in Iraq. Time for every thing to go Boom boom I guess.

    January 30, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  12. cobra

    Hope that McCain will not be able to hold the lead when he gets into the mid west and west where people are more conservative. McCain is a left wing type that tries to wear the clothes of a republican but he is more of a left wing democrat. He is not the hero that some people and McCain himself try to proclaim. He flew one mission in Nam and that was a failure as he was shot down, guess he didn't know how to dodge the missiles. I am sorry he was totured but a hero that does not make. I will not support McCain if he gets the nomination, I will vote for all other things but leave that column blank. How sad for the republican party if he wins the nomination.

    January 30, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  13. Kathryn Irby

    I never have been, or ever shall be, a Republican. That said, if I were stupid enough to call myself a Republican, I CERTAINLY WOULD NEVER VOTE FOR MITT ROMNEY!!! HE THINKS THAT DYED BLACK HAIR OF HIS WILL ELECT HIM PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, BUT HE IS IN FOR A RUDE AWAKENING!! HE HAS NOTHING MORE TO DO WITH HIS TIME THAN MUD-SLINGING THROUGH THIS ENTIRE CAMPAIGN!!! While I am not for John McCain, I must admit that McCain has tried his very best to run an ethical campaign, despite Romney's chronic criticisms of him!!! Evidently, Romney has more money than brains!!!

    January 30, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  14. Betty

    I heard on the news that McCain had volunteers phoning and telling Floridians lies saying Mitt Romney's favors abortion when he is totally against abortion.

    McCain does not always tell the truth. I have heard too many lies come from his campaign. He is the one sligging mud like a bully trying to undermine the Student Body President. McCain is the dirty politician.

    I hope people wake up and realize the integrity and strength of Mitt Romney. And those who think all Mitt Romney only thinks of money should know that as he got the Salt Lake Olympics out of millions of dollars of debt, and he did not ask a penny for his services.

    What a good, honorable man Mitt Romney is! Quit listening to the opposition's lies and get to know the true Mitt Romney!

    January 30, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  15. Pen

    Catch 22, It is sad when the Conservative values are falling in this country. That is why we are having more problems with this country internally, than ever before. This country is being sold out. Look south at the border. Come one, Come all

    Who knows how corrupt this country will be in 25 years. Look were we are now, just in the past 15 years. Anything goes, especially for a buck.

    January 30, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  16. Betty

    The democrats just want McCain to win so they can have an opponent they can easily beat!

    The media needs to give Mitt Romney more equal positive press time, and quit taking his harmless statements, turning them into mud, and accuse him of negative campaigning.

    It seems the media is for the democrats. That's why they want Mitt Romney to lose and his opponent to win so the democrats can take it all in November!

    January 30, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  17. Tom Wittmann

    Catch 22

    You write:

    "McCain is the Republican Party nominee, not only will numerous voters sit out the November election"

    How extraordinary: Conservatives will sit out, i.e. implicitely voting for Hillary or Obama !!

    Meaning that out of spite, they will between other concede defeat in IRAQ and throw the near East in a total turmoil, much worse than now,


    January 30, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  18. An Agnostic Democrat

    Wait to see them and the rest of us rally round him if Hillary gets he nod for the Democratic nominee!
    FYI: There are a lot of Dems who won't vote for her , but so far the MSM has ignored us!!! Go John!

    January 30, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  19. Jeremiah Grant, Phoenix AZ

    I am too depressed today to write much. Like many others have already expressed, I too am concerned that the Republican party may be leaving Conservatives behind. Once again, McCain failed to win a majority of self-identified Republicans and Conservatives.

    McAmnesty's snubbing of Conservatives, his lies and flip-flops, Keating Five, his lack of any knowledge on the economy, his entrenchment with the Washington establishment, his war mongering, and his long list of liberal bills and votes are all very well documented. All of that said, somehow the guy still wins. As a lifelong Conservative, this is a sad sad day.

    As many others have also said, if it's McCain vs. HRC it's still a Liberal vs. a Liberal. Objectively, the only real difference I see between the two is McCain says he would cut spending while Billary say they will raise spending and Billary will surrender in Iraq whereas McCain will keep us there 100 years. Objectively, I will admit that those are important differences.....but all the rest of it just makes me sick inside that the GOP really has moved so far to the left that it truly does not resemble the Conservative party it once was. I was proud of that party. What I fear I am seeing now just makes me hang my head in despair and worry.

    To all you Huckabee supporters to whom family values are important, can you honestly and happily place that trust in the hands of McCain–the same guy who does not support traditional marriage? A guy who divorced his first wife because she put on weight after a car accident? The same guy who called the Religious Right "agents of intolerance"? Have you really forgotten that? So Romney has a different concept of the Trinity...does that really make a drop of difference to the shared VALUES you have in common?

    Like others, for the first time in my life I will throw my support behind a Democrat if McCain gets the nomination. I will support Obama–at least he'd be able to bring something fresh to Washington. I cannot put up with any more of the same. Nothing gets done and our country slides further and further towards collapse. I love this country and know that it is capable of so much more. McCain is not the one to bring us there.

    January 30, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  20. Peggy

    Conservatives, you are being robbed. You are being robbed of the truth and you are being robbed of your voice in this country. The media is at work, not to report the news, but to make news happen the way they want it to happen. The media wants the country to shift to the left and they want you to believe the country needs to shift to the left. I watched the most incredible deception in the Florida primary as the media and a man thirsty for power, used deception to win. John McCain did not win on the truth; he won on a lie. I am not against an honest disagreement in principle. I believe in a two-party system. I am against using deception to gain power; yet lying to win has become accepted practice in politics, a practiced nurtured by a deceptive media. John McCain misrepresented Mitt Romney’s stand on the war. This was reported by the AP, and all the major media outlets. Mitt Romney countered the charge repeatedly in interviews. I saw an interview with McCain the night before the Florida primary where he stubbornly repeated the same charge, despite all evidence to the contrary. I knew and I knew he knew, that he was telling a lie to create support for his candidacy based on his war record. Despite all the evidence that McCain perpetuated a blatant lie to gain support, the media, despite their own reports that McCain had lied about Mitt’s record on the war, after the Florida primary, CNN analysts bashed Mitt Romney as dishonest; describing McCain as a straight-talking honest man.

    Conservatives, you better pay attention when the media promotes a candidate and denounces another, ignoring a blatant lie. Mitt does not need government to make him rich or powerful, why so much contempt for his money? You better see through the media’s negative characterization of Mitt’s money as a hatred for the power of the private sector, contempt for capitalism and adulation of big government. You better see through the media’s negative characterization of Mitt’s money as a hatred for the power of the private sector, contempt for capitalism and adulation of big government. You better see through the media’s negative characterization of Mitt’s money as a hatred for the power of the private sector, contempt for capitalism and adulation of big government. Conservatives believe in the power of the private sector, in the power and responsibility of the people to create change in their own lives as government gets out of the way.
    Conservatives, you have got to see through Huckabee’s religious bigotry. He is still in the campaign, not because he can win, but to keep Romney from winning—because he and his evangelical followers believe it is their god-inspired calling to keep a Mormon out of the white house. This is nothing more than religious bigotry and not a platform of true conservatism which espouses freedom of worship set forth by the Constitution.

    Conservatives, you have to decide if you want change or if at the core, you are afraid to lose the security you feel the status quo of big government is offering you. People are giving away their freedoms–freedom of worship, freedom of speech, free enterprise– because they believe the government offers them security. Responsibility for change lies within the hearts if individuals, not a government that falsely promises security. Conservatives have got to understand the founding principles of this country and speak up for now and the future. This means you are going to have to look beyond the lies of the media, the lies of liberal textbooks, and the lies of people whose power base is enhanced through bigger government. If conservatives are going to win, it is because they are united upon the principles of the U.S. Constitution.

    Peggy McFarland
    Oregon, USA

    January 30, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  21. EB Rideout, Georgia

    And the best news is America's gasbag, Rush Limbaugh, has now been officially neutered.

    He is totally ineffective and yesterday proved it.

    January 30, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  22. Larry

    11% of Republicans in Florida are liberal. Liberal Republican? What? Sounds like an Oxymoron to me.

    January 30, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  23. voter

    McCain is like a walking Robot. He looks weird and old. He has fake smiles/laughs. He doesn't move his mouth much when talking.

    In general...he will be the old/weird President if you vote for him.

    January 30, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  24. Bob

    Being born in 1981, I never knew what a conservative was until I heard of Ron Paul. I thought it just meant that you hate minorities.

    They should have chosen Ron Paul.


    January 30, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  25. EJ, Spring Texas

    I don't normally vote Republican, BUT any candidate that the likes of Rush and Co. don't like I would consider voting for ANY day! In fact if McCain would just change his stance on Bush's war I would consider it even more!

    January 30, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
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