- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 10, 2008

Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain yesterday picked up the endorsement of former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, three days before the state holds its presidential primaries.

“He is a proven conservative leader with a track record of cutting taxes, eliminating wasteful government spending, upholding our traditional values and promoting a strong national defense,” said Mr. Gilmore, front-runner for the Republican Senate nomination this year.

Mr. Gilmore is among Virginia’s most outspoken anti-tax conservatives. He was elected in 1997 on the strength of a promise to phase out the property tax on personal automobiles.

Other Virginia conservatives who have announced their backing of Mr. McCain since former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s Thursday exit from the race include former Sen. George Allen, Attorney General Bob McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling.

Another Virginia Republican, U.S. Rep. Thelma Drake, plans to announce her support of Mr. McCain tomorrow, the Associated Press reported.

Mr. McCain’s support from Virginia’s conservatives comes as many in his party accuse of him of being too liberal. Many conservatives say the senator’s initial opposition to President Bush’s tax cuts, his support for a path to citizenship for illegal aliens and his role in drafting campaign finance laws makes him unfit to lead the party and the nation.

Mr. McCain, the front-runner to win his party’s presidential nomination, failed his first test yesterday since Mr. Romney quit the race, losing in the Kansas caucus to Mike Huckabee, who won 60 percent of the vote.

The former Arkansas governor told supporters yesterday at a rally at the University of Maryland in College Park that despite Mr. McCain’s huge delegate lead, the race “is not over yet” and that “elections are about making choices, not having coronations.”

Asked why he is still running, Mr. Huckabee pointed to the New York Giants’ last-minute Super Bowl win, saying he has seen a lot of “amazing finishes.”

But some of Maryland’s top Republican officials have backed Mr. McCain, including former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who announced his endorsement for the senator Thursday.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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