John McCain edged towards the Republican
presidential nomination early Wednesday, hours
after one of the country's most prominent
evangelicals became the latest conservative figure
to distance himself from the Arizona senator's
If given the choice in November of voting for
McCain or for one of the two Democratic
contenders, said Focus on the Family Chairman Dr.
James Dobson, he would for the first time in his
life not vote for president at all.
" I cannot, and will not, vote for Sen. John
McCain, as a matter of conscience," Dobson said in
a statement released to Laura Ingraham's radio
show on Super Tuesday.
In Tuesday's multi-state primaries and
caucuses, McCain led the Republican race with wins
in nine states, giving him another 511 delegates.
In second place is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt
Romney with wins in seven states (176 additional
With wins in five southern states and 147 more
delegates in the bag, former Arkansas Gov. Mike
Huckabee remained a significant factor, while
maverick Rep. Ron Paul of Texas claimed nine
(According to the Associated Press, McCain now
has a total of 613 delegates, compared with a
total of 269 for Romney and 190 for Huckabee and
14 for Ron Paul.) A total of 1,191 is needed to
win the GOP nomination.
McCain took New York, New Jersey, Arizona,
Illinois, Connecticut, Missouri, Delaware and
Oklahoma and California. Romney won in
Massachusetts, Minnesota, Utah, Montana, Colorado
and North Dakota and Alaska. Huckabee captured
West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and
In the tight Democratic race, in which
delegates are awarded by proportional
representation, Sen. Hillary Clinton won eight
states, giving her an additional 499 delegates.
Close on her heels was Sen. Barack Obama, who won
more states on Super Tuesday (13) but picked up
fewer delegates - 491.
Overall, Clinton has 760 delegates, and Obama
has 693, the Associated Press reported. A total of
2,026 is required for the nomination.br>
Clinton won in New Jersey, Massachusetts,
Arkansas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Tennessee and her
home state of New York, California, and she looked
set to add New Mexico.
Obama took his home state, Illinois, as well as
Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Colorado, Delaware,
Connecticut, Minnesota, Kansas, Idaho and North
Dakota, Utah, and Missouri.
Few exit poll surprises
Preliminary exit poll data from a number of
states showed conservative support split between
McCain's two rivals, with about 80 percent of
Romney voters and 75 percent of Huckabee voters
describing themselves as conservative. By
contrast, 49 percent of declared McCain voters
described themselves as conservative.
The evangelical Protestant vote appeared to be
divided fairly evenly, with McCain, Romney and
Huckabee each polling around 30 percent, according
CNN analysts noted that Republican voters
opposed to the administration's policy in Iraq
were favoring McCain, despite his strong stance on
the war and the continuing U.S. mission. The trend
suggested that such voters likely held moderate
positions on other issues, more in keeping with
McCain's than those of his conservative opponents.
In delegate-rich California's GOP primary
(McCain, 42 percent; Romney, 32; Huckabee, 12),
Huckabee won the support of about a quarter of
evangelicals, the Associated Press reported.
Nearly one-third of California Republicans
polled named immigration as the most important
issue facing the country. Those favoring
deportation of illegal immigrants supported Romney
by two to one.
The No. 1 issue for most GOP voters in
California, however, was the economy, and they
backed Romney as the candidate best qualified to
Around four in 10 of Republican voters in the
state said abortion should be legal, and supported
McCain. Those who said abortion should be outlawed
favored Romney, although Huckabee also won backing
among those voters.
In Democratic exit polls, Clinton won the
support of more white women, Hispanics and those
who said they wanted an experienced candidate.
Obama got the backing of eight in ten blacks,
about half of white male voters, more than 60
percent of the young white vote, and about seven
in ten of voters saying they wanted "change."
'Best pro-life candidate'
In his statement Tuesday, Dobson said he was
convinced McCain was not a conservative, and cited
his positions on issues including the protection
of marriage, embryonic stem cell research,
political free speech and tax cuts.
"He has sounded at times more like a member of
the other party," added Dobson, who made it clear
he was speaking in his personal capacity and not
on behalf of his organization.
" These decisions ... reflect my deeply held
convictions about the institution of the family,
about moral and spiritual beliefs, and about the
welfare of our country."
Later in the day, Dobson told talk-show host
Dennis Prager that he would vote for Romney if the
former Massachusetts governor won the GOP
nomination, although he stressed that his theology
was very different from that of Romney, a Mormon.
Dobson's statement was the latest attack on
McCain's candidacy from high-profile
conservatives, including national radio talk-show
host Rush Limbaugh, who endorsed Romney on
Outspoken author Ann Coulter said on Fox News'
Hannity and Colmes last week that if McCain was
the Republican nominee, she would support -- and
campaign for -- Clinton.
McCain has received backing from some social
conservative Republicans, including Sen. Sam
Brownback of Kansas, a leading pro-lifer, who
ended his own White House bid last October and
endorsed the Arizona senator the following month.
Writing in the current issue of the National
Catholic Register , Brownback called McCain "the
best pro-life candidate to win in 2008."
In an implied criticism of Romney - whom
detractors characterize as an opportunist who has
shifted positions on abortion as a sop to
conservatives - Brownback said McCain "is no
Johnny-come-lately to the cause. John McCain is
not pro-life out of convenience, but based on
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