Virginia Goes Overwhelmingly for Bush

By Dorothea Cooke | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

( - Republican voters in the Commonwealth of Virginia turned out in record numbers Tuesday and voted for Texas Governor George W Bush over insurgent candidate Arizona Senator John McCain by a margin of 55 percent to 42 percent with 80 percent of precincts reporting.

Former Ambassador Alan Keyes received three percent of the vote.

With this latest victory Bush picked up 56 delegates bringing his total to 187 to McCain's 95.

While campaigning in Cincinnati, Ohio, Bush said he is winning the primary races "the right way." Bush said the key to his victory is his ability to unite his party and to avoid the religious divisions he said McCain is trying to create.

In his victory speech Bush said his campaign is "Uniting our party without compromising principle." Bush said Virginians "rejected the politics of pitting one religion against another."

During an appearance in Virginia Beach, headquarters of the Christian Coalition, McCain criticized many conservative Christian religious leaders comparing them to Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton and called them "intolerant" and accused them of bigotry.

McCain called Bush to congratulate him not long after the polls closed in Virginia.

In his victory speech Bush said McCain it too timid about tax cuts and that he is also not conservative enough, at least not enough to distinguish him from Democrats.

''It's important to have sharp distinctions,'' he said. ''We don't need a candidate who in a debate with Al Gore will not sound like opponents. They will sound like a ticket.''

Many Virginia Republican voters said they questioned McCain's conservative credentials. According to exit polls conducted by the Voters News Service it found only one in five voters who identified themselves as conservative Christian voters, a much lower number than in the primaries held in South Carolina and Michigan but those members said they voted for Bush.

Among those who identified themselves as "liberal" voters said they preferred McCain.

While the Virginia GOP primary was open to all registered voters, all those participating were required to sign a pledge saying they would not participate in any other presidential nominating process. But the McCain campaign this past week urged Democrats and Independents to ignore the pledge and vote for the senator.

Exit polls also found that if Bush is the GOP nominee and faces Vice-President Al Gore only four in ten McCain backers will vote for the Democrat nominee. Approximately 85 percent of McCain voters said they would vote for Arizona Republican if he were the nominee against Gore. Only one in 10 Bush voters said they would support Gore over McCain in November.

Those Republican voters polled nearly half said McCain is not conservative enough, and nine in 10 of those answering said they voted for Bush. Only one in 20 Republicans said they found McCain too conservative.

A third of the voters said moral values are the most important issue in their vote and they preferred Bush. About 15 percent were most concerned about taxes and they also voted overwhelmingly for the Texas governor. McCain's strongest issues were campaign finance reform and world affairs, but only one in 10 voters called each the most important.

More than a quarter of voters were veterans, but they split between Bush and McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam.
The exit poll results were taken from a sample of 1,832 voters interviewed by VNS in 35 randomly selected precincts around Virginia. The margin of error due to sampling was plus or minus 3 percentage points. VNS did not conduct exit polls in two other contests Tuesday, primaries in Washington state and caucuses in North Dakota.