Protest votes hand­i­cap McCain in Repub­li­can pri­maries

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Stephen Di­nan

Sen. John McCain wrapped up Repub­li­cans’ pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion long ago, but a sub­stan­tial per­cent­age of vot­ers — about one-fourth — still showed up to vote against him in the three most-re­cent Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial pri­maries.

Based on the con­tests in Penn­syl­va­nia, In­di­ana and North Carolina, Mr. McCain is do­ing bet­ter at win­ning sup­port­ers in his own party at this stage of the race than Bob Dole in 1996, but he trails the per­for­mance of then-Gov. Ge­orge W. Bush in 2000 — the last two con­tested Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial races.

In the May 6 North Carolina and In­di­ana pri­maries, Mr. McCain won 74 per­cent and 78 per­cent, re­spec­tively. That com­pares with Mr. Bush’s 79 per­cent in North Carolina in 2000 and 81 per­cent in In­di­ana. Penn­syl­va­nia was the ex­cep­tion, where he got 73 per­cent ver­sus 72 per­cent for Mr. Bush.

With just a hand­ful of small­state con­tests left, Mr. McCain has won less than 45 per­cent of the 19 mil­lion votes cast in the Repub­li­can pri­maries so far. In 2000, Mr. Bush won 62 per­cent of Repub­li­can votes.

Democrats, en­gaged in their own bit­ter pri­mary, have taken heart from Mr. McCain’s per­for­mance. Sen. Barack Obama’s cam­paign man­ager, David Plouffe, told re­porters on a con­fer­ence call May 7 that “John McCain, de­spite be­ing the nom­i­nee, [is] los­ing about a quar­ter of the Repub­li­can vote.”

But the McCain camp sees a pos­i­tive les­son from the re­cent pri­maries — ar­gu­ing the exit polls ac­tu­ally show an op­por­tu­nity to split Democrats from their party’s nom­i­nee.

“If and when Sen­a­tor Obama be­comes the of­fi­cial nom­i­nee, Demo­cratic pri­mary vot­ers may not form a tight coali­tion im­me­di­ately,” McCain cam­paign man­ager Rick Davis said in a memo eval­u­a­tion of the North Carolina and In­di­ana re­sults. “Data to date sug­gest Demo­cratic pri­mary vot­ers will not blindly sup­port Sen­a­tor Obama.”

While us­ing pri­mary data to cal­cu­late Mr. McCain’s sup­port among Democrats, Mr. Davis switched to opin­ion polling to gauge his own can­di­date’s sup­port among Repub­li­cans, point­ing to a re­cent NBC/Wall Street Jour­nal poll that showed Mr. McCain wins more than 80 per­cent of Repub­li­cans in ei­ther matchup.

Mr. McCain can take heart from the fact that turnout was up dra­mat­i­cally in North Carolina and Penn­syl­va­nia — by about 100,000 votes in each com­pared with 2000.

And McCain cam­paign of­fi­cials say they don’t see a com­par­i­son be­tween 2000 and 2008, ar­gu­ing that the on­go­ing Demo­cratic pri­mary has changed turnout for both Repub­li­cans and Democrats in un­pre­dictable ways.

But one fac­tor is com­mon to both elec­tions — Mr. McCain him­self.

In 2000 he was the man who lasted long­est against Mr. Bush in the pri­maries and was the light­ning rod for protest votes. This year the protest votes are go­ing to for­mer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huck­abee, who has dropped out and en­dorsed Mr. McCain, and to Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who is still run­ning, though he has put his cam­paign into a lower gear.

“More than 1 mil­lion Repub­li­cans have come out to vote or cau­cus for Ron Paul now,” said Jesse Ben­ton, a spokesman for the con­gress­man. “There are a lot of Amer­i­cans out there and a lot of Repub­li­cans that re­ally are very hun­gry and very ea­ger to hear a tra­di­tional Repub­li­can mes­sage of lim­ited gov­ern­ment. I think that re­ally has been lack­ing.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

Dur­ing a cam­paign event May 7 in Rochester, Mich., Sen. John McCain ad­dresses strug­gling work­ers in the auto in­dus­try, telling them that au­tomak­ers must adopt greener stan­dards in or­der to sur­vive.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.