09 February 2008

Huckabee crashes McCain coming-out party

John McCain's first Election Day as the GOP's presumptive nominee was one big flop.

The biggest punch in the stomach for McCain came mid-day out of Kansas, where he found he lost that state's Republican caucuses to Mike Huckabee by a whopping 60%-24%.

The day didn't get much better as it moved into evening.

With 98% of the vote tabulated in Louisiana, McCain trailed Huckabee 44% to 42%.

And out West in Washington State, with nearly 80% of the vote counted it looks as though McCain won't get over the 30% threshold, if he manages to hold on at all.

The numbers I'm looking at as I write this are McCain 26%, Huckabee 24%, Ron Paul 21% and the no-longer-running Mitt Romney 16%.

According to Louisiana exit polls, McCain was unable to come up with the right answer to the big question he faces.

Can he get the party's right wing behind him?

Evangelicals made up 57% of the GOP electorate in the state, with 56% going for Huckabee and 31% for McCain. Among those who described themselves as politically conservative (71% of GOP voters), 50% went for Huckabee and 34% went for McCain.

There was no exit polling in Washington or Kansas, since those states held caucuses.

But with McCain unable to get more than about one in four votes there, and four candidates finishing within about 10 points of each other top-to-bottom, it's clear there's something Republicans in Washington don't like about McCain as well.

And Kansas was a major repudiation of the party's likely nominee.

Most of the GOP's winner-take-all contests have already been completed, so McCain will get a slice of the delegates in nearly all of the races from here on in.

He will get enough delegates to win the nomination.

But with many more nights like this, the Republican nominee will cross the finish line with a bloody nose and a black eye.

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