John McCain’s victory in the South Carolina primary was the most significant in his campaign and establishes him “by any measurement” as the front-runner in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, says columnist Robert Novak.
Although McCain currently trails Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee in the number of delegates won, he leads in the polls in Florida and a triumph there on Jan. 29 could launch him into the Feb. 5 super-primaries with a chance to wipe out his competition, Novak opines.
In Saturday’s South Carolina primary, McCain “came close to refuting the claim” that he can’t win votes from Republicans, said Novak. He points out that McCain did well in conservative strongholds, got 25 percent of the evangelical vote despite Huckabee’s appeal to that sector, and trounced the other candidates among non-evangelicals.
“The question is whether the Republican establishment’s grudges will persist … to somehow keep from the nomination the candidate that Democrats believe would be the strongest Republican in the general election,” Novak writes in an article that appeared on the Web site realclearpolitics.com.
“The probably answer is no, because it is Republican nature to abhor a Democrat-like free-for-all and to seek an anointed candidate. McCain is far closer to such status than is his principal rival, Mitt Romney…
“Romney was the real threat to McCain here [in South Carolina], but his massive television buy failed.”
Novak concludes: “Even the GOP elders seem ready to grit their teeth and go along with McCain.”
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