Wednesday, February 13, 2008

John McCain claws past Mike Huckabee

John McCain sweeps Maryland, Virginia, Washington DC
Barack Obama wins Democratic races
US presidential election: Follow it with us

JOHN McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has swept rival Mike Huckabee in three capital area primaries, even as polls pointed to his lingering weakness among conservatives.

The southern state of Virginia returned closer than expected results, with senator McCain tallying 50 per cent of the vote compared with Mr Huckabee's 41 per cent with most precincts reporting.

Pre-primary polls had given senator McCain a 2-1 advantage over the former Arkansas governor and ordained Baptist minister.

The nation's capital showed a wider lead for senator McCain according to early reports: 67 per cent of voters to 17 per cent for Mr Huckabee, and Maryland had senator McCain winning with 55 to 33 per cent.

A CNN exit poll showed that while senator McCain took conservatives in Maryland 43-36, he still lost big among Virginia conservatives: 51 per cent of whom picked Mr Huckabee to 38 per cent for senator McCain.

The trio of victories provided a boost to senator McCain's campaign, already in high gear despite losing nominating contests to Mr Huckabee in the conservative southern states of Louisiana and Kansas earlier this month.


Senator McCain thanked the region's voters "for a clean sweep of the Potomac primary" during his victory speech and praised his rival, saying his "passionate supporters are a credit to him and our party".

"And my friends, he certainly keeps things interesting, a little too interesting at times tonight."

Senator McCain, a conservative who has garnered support from independent voters in the past, vowed to reach out to all voters in the Republican base, even ultraconservatives who are wary that his stances are too centrist.

"I will make my case to every American who will listen. I will not confine myself to the comfort of speaking only to those who agree with me. I will make my case to all the people."

Mr Huckabee vowed to continue his fight and told supporters the race was far from over. "The next several weeks are going to be the very intense weeks when a lot of delegates are at stake. And a lot will be decided as far as the long-term impact of where this process is going," he said.

"One thing that we have continually said, and I'm going to reiterate tonight, that the nomination is not secured until somebody has 1191 delegates. That has not yet happened."

Next fight

In his speech, senator McCain looked ahead to the White House race against the eventual Democratic party nominee.

"But now comes the hard part, and for America, the much bigger decision. We do not yet know for certain who will have the honor of being the Democratic Party's nominee for president," he said.

"But we know where either of their candidates will lead this country, and we dare not let them."

Democratic hopeful Barack Obama swept the area's nominating contests, carving into White House rival Hillary Clinton's powerbase and taking his winning streak to eight. However, the Illinois and New York senators remain in close fight for delegates.

Mr Huckabee has not engaged in bitter attacks against his rival, leading some experts to believe he might want to be senator McCain's vice-presidential nominee. But he did try to raise doubts about the senator at a breakfast meeting with reporters.

"If (McCain) is the nominee, I think the party will eventually coalesce around him," Mr Huckabee said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "I don't think he will be able to motivate" the base, "the footsoldiers."

Republican strategist Scott Reed said Mr Huckabee will eventually reach the end of his rope and give up.

"I just think Republicans need to give Huckabee some space and let him recognise it's mathematically impossible for him to win the nomination. There aren't any miracles in national politics, and he'll come to his own conclusion," he said.

- from AFP, Reuters

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