McCain and the GOP Base
By Juliet Eilperin
FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- As he seeks to win over Florida Republicans in a closed primary here next week, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reiterated today that he "earned more Republican votes than everyone else" in New Hampshire and South Carolina. The truth, however, is more complicated.
According to National Election Pool exit polls, self-identified Republicans in New Hampshire backed former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney 35 percent to McCain's 34 percent. However registered Republicans backed McCain over Romney 37 to 33 percent.
In South Carolina, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee edged out McCain among self-identified Republicans 32 to 31 percent; there is no party registration in the state. The typical error margin for these exit polls is plus or minus 4 percent, so this amounts to a statistical tie.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) acknowledged this just after McCain spoke with conservatives, saying that in the South Carolina primary contest between Huckabee and McCain, "Among conservatives in general, it was a one-point difference." Still, he argued the senator's electability remains a strong selling point for conservative voters.
"John McCain has a record that attracts conservatives in New Hampshire and South Carolina," Graham said. "There are a lot of people drawn to our campaign because they want to win."
And while McCain's 95-year old mother Roberta told C-SPAN's Steve Scully Thursday that the GOP will have to "hold its nose and pick" McCain "as the nominee," the senator said that he did not necessarily endorse that sentiment.
"I respect and love her," he said of his mother. "My mother and I, as much as I love her, don't always agree on every issue. My mother deserves a little bit of latitude, given the fact that she has always tried to speak in a candid fashion."
Washington Post editors
January 25, 2008; 2:10 PM ET
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