Arizona Sen. John McCain is now the clear favorite to be the Republican nominee, but the odd thing is that he hasn’t been put there by Republican voters. Examining the exit polls from McCain’s three primary wins — in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida — reveals that McCain has moved to the front of the pack on the strength of liberal voters and those who don’t even identify as Republicans.
In those three states, exit polls showed most GOP primary voters took the conservative side on the issues of abortion, same-sex marriage and illegal immigration. On these issues, as well as on questions of religion and a voter’s opinion of the Bush Administration, wherever most Republican voters were, John McCain lost. Among those holding the minority viewpoint on all these issues, McCain won.
There were variations among the states — for example, in non-ideological New Hampshire, McCain did as well among pro-lifers as among pro-choicers — but the theme was consistent: Non-Republicans and atypical Republicans supported McCain. Typical Republicans and conservatives voted either for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
|State||Majority Position||Majority %||Winner||Winner %||McCain %|
|New Hampshire||Anti-Civil Unions||60%||Romney||36%||32%|
|Approve of Bush Administration||69%||Huckabee||33%||31%|
|Deport illegal immigrants||52%||Huckabee||34%||26%|
|Approve of Bush Administration||68%||Romney||35%||31%|
Famously, in New Hampshire, McCain lost the Republican vote to Romney, but won on the strength of independent and Democratic voters. Interestingly, in South Carolina and Florida, voters who identified as Republicans voted mostly for Huckabee and Romney, respectively, while self-identified independents overwhelmingly favored McCain.