Conservative Gary Bauer endorses McCain

Republican John McCain challenged the notion he is struggling to rally conservative critics as he picked up the endorsement Monday of evangelical leader Gary Bauer.

“We’re doing fine. We’re doing fine,” McCain told reporters in Annapolis, dismissing the notion that losses in two states on Saturday had hurt his campaign.

McCain lost in Kansas and Louisiana on Saturday to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, although he won narrowly in Washington state. The Arizona senator is all but assured his party nod after rolling up huge numbers of delegates, 719, to the national convention. Huckabee has 234.

“We have close to 800 delegates. Last time I checked, Governor Huckabee had very few, so I think I’m happy with the situation I’m in,” McCain said. “I’m quite pleased, recognizing that we have a lot of work to do.”

His campaign announced the endorsement of Bauer, former head of the Family Research Council and founder of the Campaign for Working Families, as McCain left Annapolis for Richmond, Va. Bauer himself unsuccessfully sought the GOP presidential nomination in 2000.

A well-known abortion foe, Bauer said in a statement that McCain “has dedicated his life to defending human rights around the world, including the rights of the unborn.”

Huckabee, too, is known for opposing abortion rights. In Annapolis, McCain chuckled at a question about why people persist in voting for Huckabee despite McCain’s lock on the nomination.

“Because they like him,” McCain said. “I never expected a unanimous vote, although I would certainly like to have that. But I think we’ll continue to win primaries across the country, including tomorrow.

“I hope that we’ll do well here. I have great confidence that we will, both here and in Virginia and in the District of Columbia,” McCain said.

Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., vote on their choice for party nominee on Tuesday.

McCain acknowledged he has had trouble performing well in states that hold caucuses instead of primary elections. He said the kind of organization needed to win caucuses would have taken money he hasn’t had. He noted some of the big states voting next — Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania — are holding primary elections, not caucuses.

“We’ll continue to work hard, particularly now that we’ve got enough funds to organize,” McCain said.

McCain said it is Huckabee’s right to challenge the results in Washington. Huckabee advisers are protesting that the state GOP called the race too quickly for McCain.

“I think it’s pretty clear that we won,” McCain said at a news conference. “He obviously has the right to challenge if he chooses to. But I honestly don’t know enough about the details, except I know that state parties decide elections when they have sufficient evidence as to who has won and who has lost. That’s not unusual in any way.”