HILTON HEAD, S.C. (AP) -- As he launched a final effort to propel conservatives to the polls for Saturday's GOP primary, George W. Bush dismissed as ''weak-kneed'' those supporters who have raised doubts about his campaign. McCain called his endorsers ''a few brave people'' thwarting the party establishment.
''I'm going to win tomorrow, I believe that,'' Bush told reporters this morning on his way to rally voters in the state's conservative northwest corner. ''These people who are getting nervous now are going to regret getting nervous.''
McCain began a series of primary-eve rallies along the coast, where he is strongest, seeking to broaden and energize his base to counter Bush's huge effort to get Republican voters to the polls.
''It all comes down to turnout,'' McCain said today. ''Everything I'm doing today is aimed at voter turnout.''
McCain said he ''couldn't be happier with where we are.'' He was relying on turnout from independents and Democrats, while Bush's strength is in the GOP establishment.
''With the exception of a few brave people, every establishment figure in our party is opposing me,'' McCain said. ''I'm honored by the opposition.''
It's been a tough fight. McCain bashed Bush on Thursday for a campaign so negative it's ''low comedy.'' Bush countered that McCain was the candidate on the attack, and said key Republicans have concluded Bush is the one who can carry out the GOP agenda.
''If there are some people getting weak-kneed, we need to know who they are,'' Bush told ABC's ''Good Morning America'' today when asked about a couple of defectors to McCain and other expressions of concern among political backers.
McCain has invoked the name of another GOP president in charting his tactics, saying he wants to attract the ''old Reagan coalition, what we used to call Reagan Democrats.''
On the stump, McCain was hammering Bush for running a relentlessly negative campaign.
''There is a certain amount of desperation coming out of the Bush campaign,'' McCain said. ''They've unleashed the dogs of war.''
There was graphic evidence of the air war at work. McCain was using his cellular phone to call radio talk shows and raised his eyebrows during one commercial break.
''I've just heard two attack ads during the break,'' said McCain.
Bush, for his part, continued waving a McCain campaign flyer he said was an attack that violated McCain's positive campaign pledge, arguing McCain was riding his ''high horse'' down a ''low road.''
''I'm saying this is a man who says one thing and does another,'' the Texas governor said, drawing a frosty retort from McCain.
''It seems to me that the governor really doesn't care for losing,'' McCain countered, pointing to polls showing the race very close. ''Two weeks ago we were 20 points down in this race.''
Bush changed his tune as the day wore on to suggest that his ties to establishment Republicans meant he would be effective as president. He noted that 38 senators have endorsed him, compared with four for McCain.
''They are asking that question, who can lead America?'' Bush said. ''Which one of us can stand up and have an agenda and get it done. They're sick and tired, I'm confident, of people who talk the talk. They're interested in people who walk the walk.''
The South Carolina primary is being closely watched, because it could have an effect on Michigan next Tuesday and Virginia the following week. McCain, who thumped Bush in New Hampshire on Feb. 1, hopes to build momentum with the early wins, while Bush is seeking to build a firewall among party regulars.
Both Bush and McCain said they would soldier on regardless of what happens in South Carolina, but Bush had the most to lose as the race's presumptive front-runner.
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