LOS ANGELES, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- As Arizona Sen. John McCain was trying to continue his winning streak in Tuesday's presidential primaries in the United States, more and more conservatives questioned his conservative credentials.
With wins in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, McCain has emerged as the Republican front-runner in what had been a wide open field.
Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain greets supporters after a campaign rally at the Colonial Volunteer Fire House in Hamilton, New Jersey, Feb. 4, 2008. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
A total number of 22 states held primaries and caucuses on Tuesday, the biggest one-day round of presidential primary voting in U.S. history.
With the possibility McCain could be assured of the nomination, several columnists and talk show hosts, including Rush Limbaugh, have increasingly challenged McCain's conservative credentials.
McCain has long been criticized for his support of a series of immigration bills, including the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, which would have provided a path to citizenship for the nation's estimated 12 million illegal aliens.
Also angering conservatives is his co-authorship of the McCain-Feingold campaign financing law, which critics have called a violation of First Amendment free speech protections, and votes against President Bush's tax cuts and a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
"None of the candidates are perfect -- they never are ¨C but McCain is the least perfect of the viable candidates," Mark Levin, a former senior Reagan administration Justice Department official now a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, wrote on the Website of the conservative magazine National Review.
Levin also described McCain as "an intemperate, stubborn individual, much like Hillary Clinton."
"Those are not good qualities to have as a president," Levin wrote.
In response, the McCain campaign began airing a television commercial Friday titled "True Conservative," saying that "guided by strong conservative principles, he'll cut wasteful spending and keep taxes low." It describes McCain as "a proud social conservative who will never waiver."
McCain has shocked pundits with his rise to the top of the Republican field after substantially trailing former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in national polls during much of 2007.
Poor second-quarter fundraising and heavy spending prompted 50to 100 McCain campaign staffers to be laid off in early July, with others taking pay cuts or working without pay.
McCain was also hurt by his support of the immigration bill, according to John J. Pitney, a Claremont McKenna College government professor.
"He took a leadership position against the Republican base," Pitney said in remarks published earlier. "If you want to win the Republican nomination, the dumbest thing you can say is `Let's liberalize immigration laws.'"
The bill's failure has helped McCain, Pitney said.
"Had it passed, the government would now be implementing it and McCain couldn't back away from his previous position the way he had," Pitney said. "Now the temperature has cooled. It's not a plus for him, but it's not nearly as big a minus for him as it would have been in 2007."
McCain has received a slew of high-profile endorsements since winning last Tuesday's Florida primary. When Giuliani announced his withdrawal from the race Wednesday, he also backed McCain, calling him the most qualified candidate.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also endorsed McCain, praising him for his environmental positions, national security credentials and curbing wasteful spending.
The Los Angeles Times endorsed McCain Friday, declaring that "he has waged a principled and persistent effort to end the Bush administration's embrace of torture as a weapon of war, a frightening concession to terrorism and an abdication of basic American values."
Citing McCain's more than five years in a North Vietnamese POW camp, The Times wrote, "He alone among the Republican candidates has condemned torture in all its forms; he alone among all the candidates in this race has endured it."
The Times also lauded McCain's commitment to free trade and his leadership in forcing Republicans to "confront the reality of climate change."
Tuesday's winner in California will receive 11 delegates to the Republican National Convention, which will formally designate the party's nominee, while three delegates will be awarded to the top vote-getter in each of the state's 53 congressional districts.
News Analysis: Will Super Tuesday end U.S. presidential nomination race?
WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- Different post-Super Tuesday scenarios are under speculation as 24 U.S. states and American Samoa began voting early this morning in primaries and caucuses for the presidential nomination race.
On Feb. 5, a total of more than 1,600 of the total 4,049 Democratic delegates to the national nomination convention and almost 950 of the 2,380 Republican delegates will be allocated in what is almost a national primary. Full story