ABC News’ Bret Hovell Reports: Senator John McCain predicted he would win the South Carolina primary Wednesday, as he brushed off his nine point loss in Michigan to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
"I’ll win. I’ll win here in South Carolina. And that’s all there is to it," McCain told reporters after a town hall meeting in Spartenburg. "I feel we have sufficient strength throughout the state and we’ll be working hard on a very big get out the vote effort, which we, frankly, did not have the ability to do back in Michigan."
McCain explained Romney’s win in the Michigan by calling him a "native son," repeating a line McCain’s advisers have been using since it became clear Romney would defeat McCain on Tuesday evening.
Romney was born in Michigan but has not lived there in decades.
"I thought we would do better there, we didn’t," McCain said. "But I didn’t predict victory. I’m saying we will win South Carolina."
McCain said his campaign would not be doomed by a runner-up finish in the state, which holds its Republican primary on Saturday. But a loss here would deal a blow to his campaign and halt the momentum he has been riding since winning New Hampshire’s primary earlier in the month.
South Carolina, with its large veteran population, could be fertile ground for McCain, who has made the victory in Iraq and the war against terrorism a centerpiece of his campaign.
But rival Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister and the former Arkansas governor, is also polling well in the state, which has a large number of evangelical voters who have not warmed easily to McCain during his current campaign or in his failed 2000 bid.
At two separate events Tuesday, McCain dedicated a significant portion of his stump speech to his social conservative bona fides, including comparing his record on human rights to his pro-life stance.
"I believe those human rights extend to those who are unborn," McCain said. "And you can count on me to continue my advocacy for the rights of the unborn."
McCain also received the endorsement of Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a social conservative and budget hawk, known for his dislike of so-called government "pork".
McCain explained his focus on abortion in the events as a response to push polls that he said are misinforming voters of his positions.
"We know that phone calls are being made and they say I’m not pro-life, so I just have to remind people of my 24 years, my voting record and commitment to the unborn," McCain explained.
When he was asked if he thought rival campaigns were responsible for the push polling, McCain responded facetiously.
"No, I think they came from Mount Olympus," he said.