Posted: February 11, 2008 6:51 PM
McCain Regroups After Bad Weekend; Turns Down Federal Funds
After being rebuffed over the weekend by Republican voters in Louisiana and Kansas, GOP front-runner John McCain said his campaign is in fine shape, but he acknowledged that he must do more to maintain his commanding lead over Mike Huckabee in the GOP race’s delegate count.
“We have close to 800 delegates. Last time I checked, Governor Huckabee had very few, so I think I’m happy with the situation I’m in,” “McCain said, according to the Associated Press. “I’m quite pleased, recognizing that we have a lot of work to do.”
On Monday, McCain picked up the endorsements of evangelical leader Gary Bauer and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president’s brother.
In an interview with the AP, Bauer noted McCain’s strength with independent-minded voters but added, “he’s also going to need every last one of the conservative activists.”
“My endorsement, at least in part, was done because I hope I can facilitate the reconciliation there and help unite conservatives going into what is going to be an extraordinarily important election,” Bauer said.
According to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Monday, McCain had the support of 38 percent of self-described conservatives nationally, compared with 35 percent for Huckabee. Fourteen percent of conservatives were still undecided or didn’t back any candidate.
On Friday, McCain said he understood the skepticism of some conservatives about his candidacy, adding that he would continue to make overtures to them, The New York Times reported.
“Look, after 2000, there were a lot of McCainiacs who were very angry and bitter,” he said, referring to his bruising loss to President Bush. “And after President Bush and I got together, I worked very hard to say, look, you know, a lot of people were bitter about South Carolina, a lot of people were bitter because, you know, when you invest your hard work and your effort and your passion into a candidate. I understand that there was a period there where you’ve got to unify people and get them to recognize what the major goal is.”
One person who won’t be endorsing McCain is GOP challenger Ron Paul.
“I can not support anybody with the foreign policy he advocates, you know, perpetual war. That is just so disturbing to me,” Paul told the Tribune Company’s Washington bureau. “I think it’s un-American, un-Constitutional, immoral, and not Republican.”
In Annapolis, Md., McCain chuckled at a question about why people persist in voting for Huckabee despite McCain’s lock on the nomination.
“Because they like him,” McCain said, according to the AP. “I never expected a unanimous vote, although I would certainly like to have that. But I think we’ll continue to win primaries across the country, including tomorrow.
“I hope that we’ll do well here. I have great confidence that we will, both here and in Virginia and in the District of Columbia,” McCain said ahead of the Tuesday Potomac primaries in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. McCain was campaigning later Monday in Richmond, Va.
On Monday afternoon, the AP reported that McCain, a passionate advocate of limits on campaign finances, is turning down government matching funds for the primary to free him to spend more money as he prepares for a general election contest.
He sent letters to the Federal Election Commission and the Treasury Department notifying them of his decision to withdraw from the presidential election financing system. Last summer, McCain asked to participate in the public system when his campaign, his fundraising and his poll numbers hit a low point that threatened to unravel his candidacy.
The FEC declared him eligible to receive $5.8 million in December, but the money would not have become available until March. If he had accepted the money, McCain would have to limit his primary spending to about $54 million — an amount the campaign is close to reaching.