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CONSERVATIVE QUALMS ABOUT MCCAIN

Today, Sen. John McCain will speak to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., where he will try again to ease the discomfort many conservatives have with his candidacy. The attacks by right-wing commentators, who say he's a closet Democrat, have been so sharp that McCain urged a cease-fire Wednesday: "I do hope that at some point we would just calm down a little bit and see if there's areas we can agree on."

Mike Huckabee's surprising fivestate victories on Super Tuesday only amplified McCain's problem. Here's what's at the root of it.

1 Tax Cuts. In 2001 and again in 2003, McCain joined Democrats in voting against President Bush's tax-cut proposal. The first time he argued the tax cuts needed to be paired with spending limits to avoid deficits, and the second time he said cutting taxes was inadvisable in a time of war. Both tax packages passed, and in 2006 McCain voted in favor of extending them.

2 Immigration. In 2006, McCain co-wrote legislation to overhaul immigration laws and included a provision that would allow undocumented workers living in the United States to pay fees and fines and apply for citizenship. Critics dubbed it "amnesty," a reward for illegal border crossing though President Bush supported it, too.

3 Iraq. McCain is known as a staunch defender of the invasion of Iraq and the need to remain there over the long term. But he angered many in his party with his pointed criticism of the war's management, singling out former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

4 Campaign finance. McCain is perhaps best known for McCain-Feingold, the most significant change in campaign finance law in decades. The legislation banned national political parties from collecting unlimited amounts of cash, called "soft money," for generic party-building activities on the theory that the unchecked money was a conduit for special interest influence. The legislation also sharply curbed the political advertising that outside groups can do. Conservatives consider both pieces to have damaged the Republican Party and argue that it violated free speech.

5 Senate relationships. After more than 20 years in the Senate, McCain has stepped on some toes. In his long crusade against pork-barrel spending, he has made no effort to spare GOP colleagues from his public wrath, which has earned him a reputation for being sanctimonious.

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