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Once again last night, John McCain did best among voters who are most strongly against the Iraq war. Which is at least a half-curiosity, since the senator is well-known to have consistently advocated increased force levels from Iraq to Afghanistan to Kosovo, and thinks a 100-year U.S. presence in Iraq is just dandy.

Combining that theme with yesterday's column about newspaper endorsements, the following papers gave McCain the nod despite disagreeing with him about the Iraq war: Boston Globe, Des Moines Register, Concord Monitor, Daytona Beach News-Herald, Bradenton Herald, Valley News, Keene Sentinel, and Portsmouth Herald.

Update: Lamar in the comments points out something I should have made clear both in my column yesterday and this post—many of these editorials are just a recommendation for the primaries, not the general. If McCain survives until November, he'll have a rough time winning endorsements over Obama, but I'd bet money he'd win the (increasingly meaningless) endorsement war over Hillary.

NEXT: Will SC AG Prosecute Huckabee Push-Poll Robo Calls?

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  1. Reason endorsed Ron Paul despite disagreeing with him on immigration. Maybe everyone is not a one issue voter on the war.

  2. Was the anti-war the most important issue to the voters, or were the voters strongly anti-war, but more concerned about another issue where the felt McCain more closely matched their values? It’s baffling if it’s the former.

  3. What the hell happened? How did Iraq stop being a major issue?

    And what does all of this say about how little people understand WHY they vote the way they do?

  4. “What the hell happened? How did Iraq stop being a major issue?”

    The casualty rates went down. If we were still taking 100 deaths a month, it would still be a big issue. Since we are not, people have moved on to other things. Also, people have a sense that surge worked and we are starting to win. When the feeling was we can’t win, people considered getting out to be really important. Now that the feeling is we are winning, people are more willing to stay in there or are at least ambivilent about doing so.

  5. There are so many reasons to vote. Pundits characterized this one as a contest between McCain & Romney, so those who disliked Romney could’ve voted for McCain as the recognized “anti” vote. There could also have been those who wanted to scramble the race as much as possible.

    And don’t think a newspaper endorsement has to be sincere, guileless. Back when I read the NYT, its editorials were often palpably disingenuous to me. Which means they were counting on some readers to be undiscerning, and for others to tacitly agree with their code language.

  6. The Boston Globe endorsed McCain for Republicans. Since every GOP candidate this year (except one) is War+God=SuperAwesomeAmerica, they’re pretty much stuck with the hawks.

  7. and thinks a 100-year U.S. presence in Iraq is just dandy.

    Dandy? At least he’s being intellectually honest. We’re still in Germany and Korea 60+ years later. The military doesn’t close bases unless you drag them kicking and screaming away. Personally, I’d close them, but probably establish a long term base in one of the *stans.

  8. Iraq still is a major issue, just not in the primaries, because the candidates of each party all pretty much agree with eath other. In polling about issue importance, the Iraq War continues to be the most or second-most important issue people choose, and it consistently gets high % calling it very important.

    If there was a plausible Republican who opposed the war, I’m sure those newspapers would have endorsed him.

    As far as the “good news from Iraq” crowd’s argument, causualties are down to their 2005-2006 levels. I seem to recall the war being a fairly significant issue during that period.

  9. What the hell happened? How did Iraq stop being a major issue?

    It didn’t, but I think everyone agrees that Ron Paul isn’t going to win the nomination. All else being equal, if you hate Romney, you’re logical vote is for McCain. At least it’s logical if you want your vote to accomplish anything besides a protest.

  10. Yoo-hoo, John:

    http://www.pollingreport.com/iraq.htm

    I like the “Did the surge make things better, worse, or the same?” question.

    40% better, 46% worse or the same.

  11. Considering that we do something like $72 billion a year in trade with South Korea and if we were not there the place would be a NORKCOM hell hole, I would say our bases there are pretty damned good investment. Not all interventions and US troop presences are a good idea, but some of them are.

  12. One poll Joe. I will take the ballot results that show anti-war people voting for the most pro war candidate over one poll. Further, I will take the lower casualty counts as a lot better evidence than one poll.

  13. When was the last time the US suffered a casualty to hostile action in South Korea?

  14. Actually, five or six polls, John, each of which about half a dozen previous polls asking the same question, so we can see the trends.

    Did you even look at the link?

  15. Lamar — See updated post, and thanks.

    The rest o’ y’all — note the weasel-phrase “at least a half-curiosity.” Your explanations all make sense.

  16. Further, I will take the lower casualty counts as a lot better evidence than one poll.

    You take whatever you want, big guy. Just stop assuming you speak for anything more than a small minority of the public.

  17. Scoreboard Joe. We have had two major elections since the begining of the war and despite you claiming to be in the majority, the war has been prosecuted and it is begining to look like it is going to be successful. You can point to all of the polls you want but they never seem to make any difference on the ground. Despite your best hopes and efforts it looks like we might actually win the war and Iraq might end up a half way decent place by middle-eastern stardards.

  18. John’s right — put another way, given that you opposed the start of the Iraq war, it’s still a fact that the next president will inherit an ongoing war. If McCain is seen as experienced, honest, and capable of reducing casualties, then people may trust him to resolve the conflict.
    But it is true that moderate Republicans (those who want to lower carbon emissions, for example) are both more likely to be antiwar and more likely to agree with McCain on domestic issues.

  19. Just stop assuming you speak for anything more than a small minority of the public.

    Good advice for everyone, joe.

  20. Iraq has been off the front pages for awhile now, since casualties are way down. Troop draw-downs/tearful reunions will pick up in the summer, as the surge ends. Then Iraq will be pushed even further to the back pages.

    People tell polsters that they care about Iraq, but I think it’s the same way they “care” about the deficit. It’s something they know they’re supposed to care about, but they really don’t. You’ll notice that the Dems have pretty much dropped Iraq from their talking points, figuring that their health plans will play better with the voters.

  21. John,

    Were I in your shoes, I would try to change the subject, too.

    Thank you for sharing your feelings on how this time, Lucy isn’t going to pull the football away. It really doesn’t have anything to do with your assertion that the war has become less important to people because they feel that we’re winning.

    RC,

    It is good advice not to assume that the public agrees with you, but to look at some data.

    I didn’t spend 2002-2003 insisting that the public was opposed to the war, because that would not have been reality-based.

  22. Here’s a collection of polls about the importance of different issues:

    http://www.pollingreport.com/prioriti.htm

  23. put another way, given that you opposed the start of the Iraq war, it’s still a fact that the next president will inherit an ongoing war. If McCain is seen as experienced, honest, and capable of reducing casualties, then people may trust him to resolve the conflict.

    That makes sense.

    Also, I mentioned this last night, but does anyone know what the actual question was? THe box that Yglesias has only says “Feeling about Iraq War” with choices “Strongly Approve, Somewhat Approve, Somewhat Disapprove, Strongly Disapprove.”

    Maybe some of the “anti-war” voters who support McCain feel that Bush should be more aggressive. If the question was “How do you feel about the Iraq War?” then “strongly disapprove” could mean I strongly disapprove the war itself, or I strongly disapprove of the way it is being fought.

    Not saying this to defend the war or McCain, just to throw that theory out there.

  24. “If McCain is seen as capable of reducing casualties” depends on people believing that the war can be won and casualties reduces to acceptable levels by continuing the war. Given that the heralded causualty reductions since the late summer have not brought down the large majority that rejects the continuation of the war, it will be a tall order for him to make the case.

    Reports of reduced casualties have been all over the media for months. Take a look at what’s happened to public support for withdrawal and support for the war during that period.

  25. Cognitive dissonance is what does it.

    Remember how we were sold the invasion of Iraq? Remember the campaign style signs planted in yards and windows that read:
    “Support our troops
    Liberate Iraq”

    It is far easier to declare yourself anti-war, and then vote for that imperious war monger McCain, than it is to admit, if only to yourself, that you believe all sorts of stuff that’s not only just not true, but is irreconcilable with other beliefs you hold.

  26. Given that big city newsrooms run 95% Democrat, I always take their Republican endorsements with a shaker of salt. Do they endorse the Republican that Republicans would most likely want as president, or the Republican that Democrats would least object to if their candidate loses?

    In this case: McCain-Fiengold, giving mainstream media a stronger lock on independent election information, might have influenced the choice.

  27. You can ask the question “do you approve of the handling of the war” and the people who think we need full mobilization and 500,000 troops in Iraq will answer “no” and get lumped in with people who are genuinly anti-war. The other thing is that the anti-war candidates have never come up with any realistic plan for actually withdrawing. Even if people don’t like the war, that doesn’t mean they embrace declaring victory and running home ASAP. Ultimately, the US is pretty boxed in. It will continue to fight the insurgency and help the Iraqis fight it to and slowly disengage and let the Iraqis go on about their lives. I think most people realize that and have moved on from the fight over the war and are not voting on it as an issue anymore.

  28. I find it useful to remember that most people aren’t nearly as well educated about the positions of the different candidates as I am. I recall a lot of my independent friends saying that they might have voted for John McCain back in 2000 (mostly on account of he was considered to be “moderate” and they approved of his “reaching across the isle” for the campaign finance reform). Maybe a lot of his votes from those who oppose the Iraq war were from independents who lean democratic who still had something of a nostalgia for the John McCain of 2000.

  29. “Maybe a lot of his votes from those who oppose the Iraq war were from independents who lean democratic who still had something of a nostalgia for the John McCain of 2000.”

    I think they are. I also think they know McCain’s position on Iraq. They have to. They just are not voting on that one issue.

  30. If the economy is the main issue, what is the connection between the economy and the war?

    I think the candidate that can make a coherent argument that links those two concerns will do quite well in the general election.

  31. You can ask the question “do you approve of the handling of the war” and the people who think we need full mobilization and 500,000 troops in Iraq will answer “no” and get lumped in with people who are genuinly anti-war.

    Agreed, that’s probably the least useful question. However, given that the “we need more troops,” McCain-style hawks who criticized Bush’s handling actually got the surge they wanted and keep crowing abou it, this schism is almost certainly less pronounced than it was 2-3 years ago.

    The other thing is that the anti-war candidates have never come up with any realistic plan for actually withdrawing. The plans for withdrawing are a lot more realistic than the plans for staying. Remember when the Surge was going to create a political settlement and allow the central government to control all 18 provinces by November ’07?

    Even if people don’t like the war, that doesn’t mean they embrace declaring victory and running home ASAP. Ultimately, the US is pretty boxed in. It will continue to fight the insurgency and help the Iraqis fight it to and slowly disengage and let the Iraqis go on about their lives. If the differences between the Democrat and the Repubican revolve around how “slowly” this will happen, the war will be a small issue in the election. If the Democrat is calling for withdrawal and the Republican is calling for permanent bases like Korea and Germany, it will be a huge issue.

    Even the most hawkish Democratic candidates (Hillary and Biden) sponsored legislation that would cut off funding for permanent bases, while all of the leading Republicans are gung-ho for a permanent presence, and damn the torpedoes. Except Huckabee, who seems to be leaving himself enough wiggle room to argue for “peace with honor.”

  32. “If the differences between the Democrat and the Repubican revolve around how “slowly” this will happen, the war will be a small issue in the election”

    That is going to be the debate Joe. It really is coming to an end. The Iraqis finally passed debathification legislation that opens the way for a large number Sunni’s to get back into the government and they are swimming in oil money. They do not want the US to stay forever. It is too much of a thorn in their national pride. The war there is just going to fade away.

  33. Sure, John. It’s coming to such an end that John McCain is talking about a thousand year occupation.

    The new de-Baathification law may well result in FEWER former party members being able to get jobs.

    Consider the possibility – I know, it’s such a remote one, but bear with me here – that the completely unheardof phenomenon of your optimitstic projections being wrong comes to pass. Let’s say violence goes up, or even stays the same, over the next six months. Are the Republicans going to be okay with continued or expanded troop reductions, or are they going to call for another Surge?

    Either way, the Repubicans are screwed. They either watch as their signature cause goes down in flames, or they support sending more Americans into the cauldron against 3:1 opposition.

    Look at is this way: you consider the improvements on the ground since August to be so significant that they demonstrate the inarguable rightness of those who supported the Surge, and yet opinion is still 2:1 against and is now trending away, and the war remains in the top two issues in terms of importance.

    For the war not to be a big net loser for the Republicans, things would have to improve so substantially in six months that our presence there actually does look like Germany and Korea. I would leave open the possibility that such a thing is not on the immediate horizon.

  34. People like to back winners and abandon losers. When Iraq looks bad, people don’t want to support it. When Iraq looks good, people want to jump on the band wagon.

    Iraq may become an issue again as a fiscal problem. Why are we borrowing money to pay for the defense of a country that is rich in oil?

  35. Let’s see now, the U.S. spends about $2,000 per capita for its defense budget. Korea spends about $430, Germany spends about $425, Japan $325. Can we at least agree that over, say, the next four years, those prosperous nations should bring the spending more in line or else?

  36. “””They do not want the US to stay forever. It is too much of a thorn in their national pride. The war there is just going to fade away.””””

    Uh, the world’s largest embassy and the building of permenant bases says we plan to be there for a long, long time. I’m curious if the US plans is going to butt heads with the Iraqi’s plans down the line.

  37. “””Can we at least agree that over, say, the next four years, those prosperous nations should bring the spending more in line or else?””””

    I say or else. Spending American tax dollars to protect the world from the world is outright stupid.

    I have said that the best way to defeat a capitalist country is to force it to spend beyond its means and bankrupting it. The terrorist are working to see to it than we spend outrageously to defend the world from them, which will lead to our fiscal demise. Seems like it’s working.

    Why is it every time we have a Bush in the Whitehouse we have a savings and loan problem that requires a bail out?

  38. Which is at least a half-curiosity, since the senator is well-known to have consistently advocated increased force levels from Iraq to Afghanistan to Kosovo, and thinks a 100-year U.S. presence in Iraq is just dandy.

    But at least he’s not racist.
    ———

    Matt Welch is a vile racist.

  39. One explanation might be that the anti-war people who still even identify themselves as GOP are unusual, since the issue drove many to become independents or even Democrats.

    It’s also worth noting that most of Hillary Clinton’s supporters disagree with her de facto position on the war. Although a lot of people are nominally anti-war, what they really want in a President is someone who can cut a good deal in Iraq. Hillary’s dissembling account of her position has sort of a Nixonian “secret plan” appeal — even McCain has some of that.

    A lot of “anti-war” votes are also, when you come down to it, pro-war people who soured on the way the war was fought or its rationale. They don’t draw much in the way of broader lessons about foreign policy; they just hate Bush for being an incompetent liar. And in fact, they are so defensive about their own early support of the war that they can be talked into making the same mistake again. Look at Chris Dodd, the Dem candidate who actually made clear and explicit his remorse over supporting the war initially; the won’t-be-fooled-again candidate didn’t get the time of day.

  40. “I have said that the best way to defeat a capitalist country is to force it to spend beyond its means and bankrupting it. The terrorist are working to see to it than we spend outrageously to defend the world from them, which will lead to our fiscal demise. Seems like it’s working.”

    That is the exact goal of assymetrical warfare. The problem is, the US military is trying to beat the terrorists using standard occupation tactics and expecting the enemy to play fair.

    Meanwhile here in the US, our economy is heading for a real correction and the bills for all this nation building are coming due.

  41. Do you isolationists think that we’re keeping troops in Korea and Germany out of altruism?

    You know what’s more expensive than our troop presence in Korea? Another Korean War.

  42. It has been years (since 1964, I believe) since I witnessed a convention that wasn’t a coronation in disguise. With a different candidate taking the lead with about 35%, no one will be a lock at the convention.

    This was the situation that propelled Goldwater past Henry Cabot Lodge and Nelson Rockefeller. If Ron Paul’s number rise some and he gets some third place finishes soon followed by some second place finishes and perhaps even a win or two, he’ll have enough delegates to address the convention. If the war turns uglier and inflation and/or stagflation gets worse, the delegates could be persuaded to go his way in a deadlocked convention.

    BTW, Goldwater (IMHO) could have beaten JFK. Johnson’s landslide victory was built on sympathy for the slain Kennedy and that Johnson successfully painted Goldwater as the candidate that would escallate the war in Vietnam. (Makes you laugh doesn’t it?)

    Against Huckabee, Romney, or McCain (need I mention Fred & Julie-Annie?), Hillary or Barack can paint themselves as candidates of change. Against Dr. Paul, they become agents of the status quo. So, short of outright wins for Ron Paul, I will keep celebrating the game of front runner-musical chairs in both parties.

    As an old political junkie, I can tell you that just as boring watching a political coronation is, watching a deadlocked convention go through vote after vote (with backroom deals boiling over) is great entertainment indeed! In this world of 24 hour news and more than just three news networks, it should be even more fun than in the past.

  43. You know what’s more expensive than our troop presence in Korea? Another Korean War.

    I wonder about that. Presuming that not one American nickel is spent on a Korean conflict because [insert reason we should not be in Iraq here], what does it cost us? Sure, trade would be disrupted for a little while, but I’m sure the Chinese and Indians could take up the slack.

    Seriously, I can’t think of any reason whatsoever why we should have troops permanently stationed in Europe.

    I suppose there’s a marginally better case for it in the Far East, but not much.

    I can’t imagine a reason for keeping troops in these overseas billets that doesn’t apply in spades in Iraq.

    I still think that the Democrats are running an enormous risk on Iraq. They can’t take credit for success, and they’ve been in charge of Congress long enough and said and done enough things that are not, to put it kindly, helpful in achieving success there that they can easily take at least some of the blame.

  44. Joe,
    With their good economy and well fed populace, why can’t the South Koreans defend themselves?
    They are the stronger of the two nations. It is doubtful China would back “Mentally Ill” in a war nowadays.

    Since Germany is now reunited, there are no longer godless commies in East Germany to defend the west from. So do you have a half baked rationalization for our troops staying there as well?

    I say if the world wants us to play policeman, they can damn well pay us. Not even the Iraqi’s have offered up to pay us in oil.

  45. PS: If the Chinese do support Mental Lee Ill in a war against South Korea, do you think they would continue to bankroll us in fighting them?

    Can you see the corner we have painted ourselves into? We cannot play global cop without financing it. It is best we cut bait and defend our own borders.

  46. RC Dean,

    Seriously, I can’t think of any reason whatsoever why we should have troops permanently stationed in Europe.

    Ease/speed of deployment?

    A force dispersed around the world allows us to defend our interests around the world more efficiently?

    Seems like that is the argument I have heard.

    Given that most of our interests around the world are resources in other countries, having troops near those resources makes them easier to defend.

    Our claim to those resources is a whole ‘nuther issue.

  47. “”Do you isolationists think that we’re keeping troops in Korea and Germany out of altruism?””

    Joe, how is it that not think we should finance the world’s security, equates to isolationism?

    I know you’re smart enough to know that there are many ways to have a relationship with the world other than our military.

  48. “””Given that most of our interests around the world are resources in other countries, having troops near those resources makes them easier to defend.”””

    Sure, but does it make good fiscal sense if you have to borrow money to defend them?

    I’m not sure how bankrupting our country to pay for world security is in our interests.

    I do find it pretty damn funny that some Americans will gripe about the federal government spending money on schools for Americans but have no problem sending money to build schools in another country.

  49. R C Dean,

    Presuming that not one American nickel is spent on a Korean conflict

    Why would you presume that? 500,000 North Korean troops cross the DMZ, Seoul gets levelled by artillery, and you think that not one dime of American money ends up being spent to stop it?

    And if the Norks end up unificating the penninsula under Dear Leader, you think trade might be disrupted more than “a bit?”

    NoStar,

    With their good economy and well fed populace, why can’t the South Koreans defend themselves? You think they’re any better fed than the Romans in the 400s? History is full of the lean and hungry falling on the fat and happy.

    As for Germany, I agree, with no Warsaw Pact, we could scale way back, though it would probably remain a good idea to have some presence in a friendly, stable country to make actions on the other side of the planet possible.

    I say if the world wants us to play policeman Once again, do you actually think we have troops stationed in Germany and South Korea out of altruism towards those countries? World wants us my ass!

    Can you see the corner we have painted ourselves into? Yes, the invastion and long-term occupation of a hostile country is bankrupting us. That was really, really stupid. What that has to do with keeping forces garrisoned in stable, friendly countries eludes me at the moment. I am agin the former, and fer the latter.

    TrickyVic, and I know you are smart enough to notice that there was a point in that sentence you quoted which had nothing to do with the definition of isolationist. Fine, put “military” in front of “isolationist” if it makes you happy.

  50. Sure, but does it make good fiscal sense if you have to borrow money to defend them?

    We don’t have to borrow money to defend them. We were running surpluses under Clinton’s “Forward Engagement” policy, and even then, the cost of overseas deployments was less than half of the total military budget.

    The Iraq War is bankrupting us. Whether the size of our deployment in Germany is too large or not, it is not bankrupting us.

  51. Them includes everybody Joe.

  52. “”TrickyVic, and I know you are smart enough to notice that there was a point in that sentence you quoted which had nothing to do with the definition of isolationist. Fine, put “military” in front of “isolationist” if it makes you happy.”””

    Being that we are mostly talking about military intervention, I naturally assumed those were the people you were calling isolationist. If that’s not the case I will gladly put the military in front of isloationist.

  53. “”We were running surpluses under Clinton’s “Forward Engagement” policy, and even then, the cost of overseas deployments was less than half of the total military budget.”””

    Did Clinton actually hit a surplus or was it a projected surplus? I don’t remember. If they were actual, what year did that start?

  54. I can’t make heads of tails of what either of those comments is supposed to mean.

    Since you knew I was talking about military intervention, why did feel the need to point out that you SO AREN’T an isolationist on trade?

  55. Vic,

    Actual surpluses – the national debt shrank slighting – beginning in either 1997 or 1998. I don’t recall.

  56. “””Since you knew I was talking about military intervention, why did feel the need to point out that you SO AREN’T an isolationist on trade”””

    I didn’t know you were talking about intervention. You clearly stated isolationist which is not the same thing. Isolationism requires much more than just non-intervention by the military.

  57. The only reason we have troops in S Korea is to act as a trip wire and inspire the US public to believe we have a dog in that fight.

    If N Korea jumps S Korea, our leaders need bunches of dead US soldiers to convince the public to believe that we oughta be involved. Without that body count, the public just wouldn’t be outraged enough to allow our government to act decisively (send soldiers) to save the sizable revenue streams that come outta S Korea.

  58. Reason endorsed Ron Paul despite disagreeing with him on immigration.

    When did reason endorse Ron Paul?

  59. joe, I am pretty much on your side on this, but it must be said that ROK can soundly defeat any invasion by DPRK without one iota of our (or other UN forces – which are also still there- help). Seoul may get damaged, and many people would die, but the South has an overwhelming superiority in *quality* of equipment, personnel, logistics, and leadership. The tough nut to crack would be the inevitable counter-offensive into the North. It is such a maze of bunkers and other obstacles to make advances very difficult.

  60. That should be Seoul will get damaged; and move the ) one word left

  61. Kolohe,

    I don’t doubt that South Korea could win, but the best outcome is not South Korea being able to eventually win a war; it’s for no war to happen because the North Koreans are effectively deterred.

    And THAT, Karn Evil 9, is what our troops are there for – to deter a war, not to get us involved in one.

  62. eh, I am too young and not prog and/or hip enough to get a ELP reference.

    I completely agree that the primary purpose of our military, in all it’s manifestations and locations is deterence. It’s really the only reason to have a large standing military in ‘peacetime’ anyway, right?

    It’s also the principle reason why Iraq is such a debacle, it’s not just the blood and treasure; it completely has eliminated our ability to play good poker with international diplomacy. We can’t bluff right now, and won’t be able to do again credibly for at least another decade.

    But specifically, and regardless of our other military engagements, I do not think we currently have much deterrent effect on DPRK. Our presence is small, and ROK has all the right toys, and more importantly, the know-how on use, maintenace, and logistics, to completely overwhelm a DPRK invasion. Any rational DPRK military leader can see this. And the irrational ones will think both the US and ROK as weak decadent imperialist pigs, so there is no deterence value to the crazy’s added by our presence.

    Anyway, we are in fact drawing down our presence in both Germany and South Korea since March 2003; the size of the German one has been larger on a percentage basis (and think also in absolute numbers, but I am not sure off the top of my head.) Basically most of two divisions in Germany, and part of the one divsion in Korea, have been rotated to Iraq since the war started, and never returned (that is, they’ve been rolled into the CONUS/iraq/afghanistan rotation)

    So my point is, of all the places where painless cuts can be made, pulling the majority of the Army out of Korea would be the top of my list.

  63. You make a good case, Kolohe.

  64. This puzzle (anti-war supporters voting for McCain) has an easy solution. Democrats and Independents are against the war and make up the majority of McCain’s support. McCain has not received a majority of Republican votes in any contest yet.

    The real question is why Democrats and Independents are voting for McCain? It can only be ignorance of his real record.

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