By Peter J. Smith

NEW YORK, February 6, 2008 ( – Arizona Senator John McCain has now seized a firm lead over pro-life former governors Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, with strong primary victories on Super Tuesday. McCain’s victory, however, was followed quickly with news that the senator is now endorsed by the pro-abortion wing of the party, raising grave concerns for conservative and pro-life Republicans.

In primary contests last night, McCain won delegate-rich states, capturing California, New Jersey, New York, Arizona, Oklahoma, Delaware, Connecticut, and Missouri. He leads the nomination with 680 delegates. Romney scored victories in Utah, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Massachusetts, his home state, putting him in second with 270. Huckabee followed third with 176 delegates, winning contests in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia and his home state of Arkansas. A candidate needs 1,191 total delegates to clinch the nomination at this summer’s GOP convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Huckabee’s victories in the south have revived his flagging campaign, but McCain, who has been regarded by conservatives as an arch-foe of free-speech and dubiously pro-life, is the greatest beneficiary, as conservatives continue to split their votes between Huckabee and Romney.  

The rise of McCain has alarmed conservative political leaders and talk-show hosts, including talk-show giant Rush Limbaugh, who has warned his audiences that McCain’s history shows he is favorable neither to conservatives nor pro-life advocates. The most glaring example is the heavy free speech restrictions of McCain-Feingold, McCain’s brainchild, which forbids lobbying groups, such as pro-life organizations, from running ads criticizing an incumbent’s record before an election. It also punishes severely individuals who do not have authorization to campaign for or against a candidate.

“One of the worst bills in my 31 years here is McCain-Feingold,” Sen. Orrin Hatch was quoted to have remarked. McCain also defeated Republican efforts to end Democrat efforts to filibuster some of Bush’s judicial nominations, about which Hatch said, “In the eyes of conservatives, he undermined the whole party.”