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Bush Says McCain a True Conservative

President Bush is seeking to ease conservative fears about Arizona Senator John McCain - the frontrunner for the Republican Party's presidential nomination. But, as VOA White House Correspondent Paula Wolfson reports, Mr. Bush still is not offering a formal endorsement.

Senator McCain is way ahead in the race for delegates to the Republican Party's nominating convention. But former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, his only major challenger, is not giving up.

While he has been careful not to choose sides, President Bush is clearly aware that some of the party's staunchest conservatives do not want to see McCain get the nomination. They consider him a maverick and out of step with their views on issues such as immigration, tax policy, and campaign reform.

The president preached party unity at a conservative gathering on Friday. And in a follow-up interview on national television, he stressed this wing of the party has nothing to fear from John McCain.

"I know him well," said President Bush. "I know his convictions. I know the principles that drive him. There is no doubt in my mind that he is a true conservative."

Mr. Bush told the Fox News Sunday program both McCain and Huckabee have conservative records. But he acknowledged that McCain will have to work hard to bring the various factions of the Republican Party together.

"I think if John is the nominee, he has got some convincing to do to convince people that he is a solid conservative," said Mr. Bush. "And I will be glad to help him if he is the nominee."

McCain's strong showing in the 22-state Republican contests held last Tuesday earned him the frontrunner status. One of his challengers, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney suspended his campaign last Friday, leaving Huckabee as McCain's only major challenger.

Huckabee won victories Saturday in Louisiana and Kansas. He told NBC's Meet the Press that he intends to stay in the race, saying there is still a chance that McCain will lack the necessary delegates to wrap up the nomination before the convention.

"People say is not it a rather complicated and convoluted path to victory? You bet it is! But it is a real easy path to defeat," said Mike Huckabee. "All I have to do is walk off the field and the game is over."

Huckabee said his supporters remain energized going into the next round of contests Tuesday in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. He said not one has asked him to follow the lead of Mitt Romney and leave the race.