McCain has big problems with conservatives

The conservative pundits who favored Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani or Fred Thompson for president are fully on board with John McCain, but he still has a big problem with other elements of the conservative base.

Exhibit A: the results from the GOP primary in Pennsylvania last week. More than two months after it became clear that McCain would be the GOP nominee, he gained just under 73 percent of the vote from Pennsylvania Republicans. Ron Paul got almost 16 percent (more than 128,000 votes), and Mike Huckabee got about 11 percent (more than 91,000 votes).

Think about that. More than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania went to the trouble of voting for someone other than McCain last Tuesday.

McCain did the worst in conservative counties where Republicans need to run up big margins to have any hope of winning statewide in Pennsylvania:

Mr. McCain’s worst showing was in Juniata County, near the center of the state. He received only about 59 percent of the vote, while Mr. Paul took nearly 28 percent. In 2004, President Bush won Juniata with 72 percent of the vote.

Mr. Bush had his biggest win that year in southern Fulton County, with 76 percent of the vote. Mr. McCain picked up 71 percent there, but Mr. Huckabee had 21 percent, his highest percentage in the state.

The conservative Washington Times has more bad news for McCain:

The McCain campaign has said it is on the same timeline for uniting the Republican Party as then-Gov. George W. Bush in 2000. In that year, Mr. Bush won 73 percent of the Republican vote in Pennsylvania’s primary, held April 4. His biggest challenger was McCain himself, who won 23 percent, despite having dropped out of the campaign weeks earlier.

But McCain was a far more imposing figure in 2000 than Paul and Huckabee were in 2008, and McCain has also had more time before Pennsylvania to consolidate his lead than Bush had in 2000. To continue to post less-than-dominant showings will only prolong talk that McCain has more work to do within his own party.

And to truly match Bush’s 2000 performance may be out of the question for McCain. Out of 18.5 million votes cast in the primaries so far he has won 43.2 percent. By contrast, Bush finished 2000 with 62 percent of the Republican primary vote.

Then I learned from this diary by sarahlane that Ron Paul says he doesn’t plan to campaign for McCain, and Paul supporters outnumbered McCain supporters at the Nevada Republican Party’s state convention last weekend.

Finally, the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch has filed a complaint against McCain with the Federal Elections Commission. If you’re too young to remember Judicial Watch, this group repeatedly attacked Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s.

Click the link to read the MyDD post by Jonathan Singer. Judicial Watch’s FEC complaint relates to a possibly illegal in-kind contribution from a foreign national to McCain’s campaign.

As I’ve mentioned before, prominent bloggers have filed a separate FEC complaint relating to McCain’s failure to abide by the spending limits imposed on candidates who agree to take public matching funds during the presidential primaries.

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