Much of the TV punditry last night was based on exit polling from Virginia showing that it was a one-point race. Those exit polls (as were the ones in California, Arizona, Delaware and a number of other states this primary season) were wrong, really wrong. John McCain in fact won by 11 points and reached the 50% threshold. However, not only did TV commentators continue to refer to the race as “close” but they used those very same numbers as proof positive that McCain has an ongoing problem with evangelicals and conservatives. Perhaps he does, but faulty polls are not the starting part to make the case.
In fact, when you look at actual returns, McCain did remarkably well in key areas throughout the state — Norfolk and Newport News (military communities), northern suburbia (Loudon, Fairfax) and, as Karl Rove pointed out, the 7th Congressional District (Eric Cantor) in the middle of the state, which will be critical in the general election. All in all it was an impressive showing. (Beyond that, the conservative and evangelical “problem” seems illusory since Barack Obama, not Mike Huckabee, will be on the ballot in all likelihood and increasingly high percentages of all Republicans indicate they are satisfied with McCain as the nominee.)
One thing that the TV pundits got right: Huckabee has essentially been eliminated. While the McCain camp is apparently not too pleased by his continued presence in the race, so long as McCain racks up healthy wins, ignores the exit polls (and the wrongheaded commentary which flows from it) and begins, as he did last night, to formulate a general-election message, there seems to be little harm done in waiting several more weeks for Huckabee formally to leave the race.