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Sen. McCain must consolidate support to win U.S. elections

John McCain is certain to be the Republican nominee in the U.S. presidential elections, but the conservative Party base doesn't like him at all. On the Democratic side, the delegate counts for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama suggest that the race is a virtual dead heat — or is it?

Nobody doubts that McCain has already won. Most Republican primaries have been winner take all contests, which explains how he could amass an insurmountable lead in delegates while losing much of the South to Huckabee and winning by small margins in other important contests, including New Hampshire, Florida, and Virginia. McCain's victory now is just a matter of mathematics. Huckabee could win in every remaining state primary by smashing margins and McCain would still be the Republican candidate for President. According to a CNN analysis, Huckabee would have to win 123 percent of the remaining delegates to gain the nomination.

Now McCain has to unite a bitterly divided Party. The righteous right is vehemently opposed to him, as well as to abortion, gay marriage, human stem cell research and any solution to the immigration mess other than forcing illegals to leave the country. Several radical right-wing radio talk show hosts have gone so far as to broadcast that they would vote for Clinton if McCain is nominated. Nonsense perhaps, but there should be no doubt that Huckabee has emerged as the savior of this evangelical base of the Republican Party.

This probably explains why Huckabee stays in the race. He continues to gain national exposure, and he becomes the leader of the faction that played such an influential role in Republican politics in the last two presidential elections. You can also speculate that Huckabee, the ever polite campaigner who has never attacked McCain personally, hopes to present himself as the one Vice Presidential hopeful who could rally right-wing support that McCain so badly needs to win the Presidency.

It looks like a slowly increasing majority of Republicans have enough sense to realize that McCain is all they've got. McCain also realizes that without strong partisan support, he doesn't have a chance in November. So, he is assiduously courting conservatives, walking a tightrope between the need to win them over and the equally pressing task of attracting the support of independents that like him for his personal characteristics but view far right Republicans as the wacko fringe. He is likely to be reasonably successful in this Herculean task because the Republican Party loses big otherwise.

Even so, McCain could still discover by convention time that he needs Huckabee as his running mate if he is to generate enough Republican enthusiasm to be a serious contender in the November election.

The contrast between the Republican and Democratic struggles is like night and day. McCain is in, but will Republicans vote and will his Party really unite and go all out for him? The Democratic voter is much more likely to vote in great numbers for whoever wins their nomination. This is very important for two reasons. In U.S. elections, unenthusiastic voters often just don't bother to vote. Additionally, independents are likely to favor the Party that courts them with the most enthusiasm and the most coherent platform.

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