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McCain, Romney Take Battle to California

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McCain, Romney Take Battle to California

Election 2008

McCain, Romney Take Battle to California

McCain, Romney Take Battle to California

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Republican presidential rivals John McCain and Mitt Romney spend a day on the campaign trail in California, one of more than 20 states holding contests on Feb. 5. McCain was endorsed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Here are some similarities and differences between John McCain and Mitt Romney, the leading Republican candidates for president. Romney says he's the conservatives' choice; John McCain says he's the choice for all of Republicans. That's the difference. The similarity is that both will be spending millions of dollars, and perhaps traveling thousands of miles as they prepare for next week's contests on Super Tuesday.

NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOOT HORSLEY: John McCain toured a Los Angeles factory that makes solar roof panels, and the sun appears to be shining on his campaign at the moment. Since he won the Florida primary on Tuesday, McCain has been drawing support from high-profile Republicans around the country. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger favored McCain with some of his own star power yesterday.

MONTAGNE: He's a great American hero and an extraordinary leader. This is why I'm endorsing him to be our next president of the United States. Thank you very much.

HORSLEY: Schwarzenegger praised McCain for promoting alternative energy, combating global warming, and for his willingness to reach across the aisle to Democrats. Schwarzenegger has the same reputation himself here in California.

But political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe of the University of Southern California says Schwarzenegger may not be much help to McCain in next week's California primary, which is open only to registered Republicans.

MONTAGNE: I don't think his coattails(ph) go very far with the Republican Party in the state of California. He will be more influential in the general election.

HORSLEY: Winning support from independent voters will be crucial to both parties in November. But for now, McCain's bigger challenge is proving he can lead the more conservative elements of the GOP. His win in the Florida primary, where only Republicans could vote, was a step in that direction. McCain also points to the endorsement yesterday of Texas Governor Rick Perry.

INSKEEP: You will see a flood of endorsements across this country from both liberal and conservative. And let me say, I'm prepared to lead our party in the nation and I am prepared and am succeeding in uniting it. We need all parts of our party together if we're going to win in November. I believe our party is beginning to realize that.

HORSLEY: Not so fast, says Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor trailed McCain in Florida, New Hampshire and South Carolina. But with Rudy Giuliani dropping out this week, and Mike Huckabee, so far, unable to build on his win in Iowa, Romney is trying to paint the GOP contest as a two-man race, with himself as the champion of the most conservative voters.

MONTAGNE: I guess, I think there's going to be a real battle here for which way the Republican Party is going to head.

HORSLEY: Romney visited the home of a Long Beach family yesterday, then spoke to reporters and curious neighbors outside. He said some of the efforts McCain is best known for - on immigration and campaign finance, for example - make conservatives see red.

MONTAGNE: Senator McCain has, over his career in Washington, demonstrated strong leadership, which has tended to be - and his most notable accomplishments, leadership towards - for liberal causes.

HORSLEY: One area where Romney has led so far is television ads. He ran almost 10 times as many in Florida, as McCain did. But there are signs Romney may not go all-out on the airwaves in the Super Tuesday states. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Romney was opting for less costly strategies. Romney, himself, says only that he's authorized a seven-figure ad budget - one ad is set to begin running today.

Contrast Romney's experience not with McCain's, but with Hillary Clinton's.

(SOUNDBITE OF MITT ROMNEY'S POLITICAL AD)

MONTAGNE: She has never run anything. And the idea that she could learn to be president as an internship just doesn't make any sense. I have spent my life running things.

HORSLEY: Running a presidential campaign in more than 20 states at once is a financial drain, even for a multimillionaire like Romney. Reports released yesterday show Romney spent $35 million of his own money on the campaign last year. By comparison, McCain has been running on a relative shoestring. McCain held a fundraiser in California yesterday and has six more fundraisers planned over the next four days.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Los Angeles.

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