Presidential hopeful John McCain said Monday that although it's not impossible for a Republican candidate who favors abortion rights to win the nomination, such a candidate would face long odds.
"I think it's one of the fundamental principles of a conservative to have respect and commitment to the dignity of human life, both the born and unborn," McCain said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It makes it tough because the Republican Party is basically composed to a significant degree by people who are pro-life, just as the Democratic Party has pro-choice candidates."
The issue is far from symbolic for McCain. One of his leading rivals for the GOP nomination, Rudy Giuliani, supports abortion rights. In last week's Republican debate, Giuliani was the only candidate who said it would be okay if the Supreme Court upholds the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion.
"I would assume that the Republican Party would judge a candidate on all of his or her resume and record and vision," said McCain, R-Ariz.
While possible, it would be difficult to overcome that hurdle, he said.
"I think anything is possible, but I don't think it would be real easy," McCain said.
McCain was campaigning in Iowa, a state he skipped when he sought the Republican nomination in 2000. He has made it clear he will compete in Iowa this time around.
The Iraq factor
McCain has pinned his campaign hopes on his strong backing for the war in Iraq, and he set a fairly high standard for how that country must be functioning by next year to avoid it badly damaging his candidacy.
"I think we have to have a government that is functioning and we have to have a country that is largely secured," McCain said.
That means "American troops have been pretty well out of the main line of fire, I don't mean totally withdrawn, but the responsibility is taken over by the Iraqi military," he said.
McCain also set a high standard that he said the Iraqi government isn't meeting.
"This government has to be perceived by everybody in Iraq as an inclusive government," McCain said.
Also Monday, McCain's campaign said national political director Mike Dennehy is stepping down from his post to return with his family to New Hampshire, where he will be the campaign's lead consultant focusing on early primary states. Aides said Rob Jesmer, who has worked for the Republican National Committee, is succeeding Dennehy.