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Mr. McCain’s long, successful push to bar “interest group” advertising before elections and ban “soft money” donations came back to bite him in Tuesday’s elections, permanently annoying many Republican voters.

“The damage the Bush administration has done to the conservative movement by signing McCain-Feingold campaign finance regulations is immeasurable,” said Republican elections lawyer Cleta Mitchell. “And there is some irony in the fact that the legislation sponsored by McCain ultimately may have lead to his defeat.”