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McCain Returns to the Scene of His 2000 Undoing

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By Michael D. Shear
Friday, April 27, 2007

COLUMBIA, S.C.

Sen. John McCain returned to South Carolina on Thursday, continuing his presidential announcement tour on the site of his bitter 2000 clash with George W. Bush. The two waged a make-or-break battle for the nomination in 2000, and when it was over McCain's presidential hopes were dashed.

In the days and weeks after that vote, McCain was angry, lashing out at the Bush team. But seven years later, as he woos former Bush supporters here, he allows not a hint of the animosity he once exuded.

"The state has really been growing, particularly along the coast. There's a whole new set of voters out there," he said to reporters after a rally at the Adluh flour mill in downtown Columbia, explaining his strategy for victory here. "We're building a strong political base along the lines that President Bush was able to do in 2000."

It's clear that McCain has not forgotten the attacks he suffered at the hands of Bush backers in South Carolina, including false allegations that he had illegitimately fathered a black child. At an earlier rally in Greenville, he spoke of a "memorable experience we had here" in the previous contest. Then he raised his eyebrows a few times as if to say, "You know what I mean, right?"

A few minutes later, he promised to "vigorously respond" if such a thing happened again.

But McCain's success in 2008 depends more on winning back Bush voters than pushing them away. Aides this week touted a new poll by the League of Conservation Voters that showed McCain well in the lead over his GOP rivals in South Carolina.

In the poll of 400 Republicans, McCain led the field with 24 percent, followed by 15 percent for former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and 12 percent for former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.).

Gilmore Makes It Official

Former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore officially kicked off his presidential campaign with a Web cast from his campaign site while visiting the Iowa Republican Party.

"Ours is a conservative party that favors a strong national defense, limited government and traditional values," he said. "Now as our nation faces grave challenges abroad and renewed liberalism at home, we as a party seemed poised to abandon those principles."

The three leading contenders for the GOP nomination "may be good men but they simply do not share our conservative voices," he adds. "I will represent the Republican wing of the Republican Party."

Gilmore raised about $200,000 in the first three months of the year.

-- Zachary A. Goldfarb

Huckabee's Son Arrested in Airport

The son of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was arrested after an X-ray at Little Rock National Airport revealed a semiautomatic pistol with eight live rounds of ammunition in his carry-on bag, Reuters reported.

David Huckabee, 26, who had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, was jailed briefly, fined $855, sentenced to a year's supervised probation and ordered to do 10 days of community service. The judge suspended a one-year jail sentence.

Authorities said such arrests are common in Arkansas.

"I love my son but what he did was irresponsible, but not intentional," the elder Huckabee said in a statement. "I make no excuses for him and would expect him to accept whatever penalties are given. It is the court's responsibility to properly consequence him for a foolish act but his family's responsibility to love him and temper our disappointment with our support."

-- Zachary A. Goldfarb


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