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McCain Clinches GOP Presidential Nomination; Huckabee Drops Out

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/04/AR2008030401984.html?hpid=topnews McCain Clinches GOP Presidential Nomination Huckabee Drops
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 4 8:24 PM
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      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/04/AR2008030401984.html?hpid=topnews

      McCain Clinches GOP Presidential Nomination
      Huckabee Drops Out as Senator Wins Four Primaries

      By Michael D. Shear and Peter Slevin
      Washington Post Staff Writers
      Tuesday, March 4, 2008; 11:00 PM

      Sen. John McCain clinched the Republican presidential
      nomination tonight, and he immediately castigated his
      potential Democratic rivals as liberals who lack the
      experience and wisdom to lead a country facing
      economic distress at home and engaged in war abroad.

      The senator from Arizona easily won primaries in Texas
      and three other states, becoming the new face of the
      Republican Party and, at last, capturing the prize
      that had eluded him for a decade. The victories ended
      one of the great tests of political endurance for a
      man whose personal mettle was forged by five years in
      a North Vietnamese prison.

      His political ambitions were dashed in 2000 by George
      W. Bush and again seemed to end last summer amid staff
      infighting and financial chaos. But McCain soldiered
      on, emerging tonight as the far-from-universal choice
      of a fractured Republican Party. His remaining rival,
      former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, captured about
      a third of the vote in Texas, signaling the
      frustrations that conservatives still feel about
      McCain.

      Campaigning in Texas, McCain told reporters he will
      "await the outcome" on the Democratic side. But in his
      victory speech at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas, McCain
      made it clear that he will immediately begin to make
      his case that the country cannot afford to have either
      Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama as
      president.

      "I will leave it to my opponent to argue that we
      should abrogate trade treaties, and pretend the global
      economy will go away and Americans can secure our
      future by trading and investing only among ourselves,"
      he said to a screaming crowd. "I will leave it to my
      opponent to propose returning to the failed,
      big-government mandates of the '60s and '70s to
      address problems such as the lack of health-care
      insurance for some Americans."

      McCain added enough delegates today to take him over
      the 1,191 he will need at the party's national
      convention in September. Huckabee conceded after the
      polls closed, saying he called McCain to congratulate
      him for an "honorable" campaign and pledging "to do
      everything possible to unite our party, but more
      importantly to unite our country."

      McCain was scheduled to travel to the White House in
      the morning at the invitation of President Bush,
      according to Republican sources.

      Standing in front of a banner with the number "1,191"
      on it -- the number of delegates he needed to clinch
      the nomination -- and flanked by two large American
      flags, McCain vowed that his campaign "will be more
      than another tired debate of false promises, empty
      sound bites, or useless arguments from the past." He
      focused much of his speech on terrorism and the Iraq
      war.

      "America is at war in two countries and involved in a
      long and difficult fight with violent extremists who
      despise us, our values and modernity itself," McCain
      said. "It is of little use to Americans for their
      candidates to avoid the many complex challenges of
      these struggles by re-litigating decisions of the
      past."

      Those who cast ballots in Texas and Ohio, the two
      biggest contests, overwhelmingly supported McCain. He
      won easily among independents, Republicans, men and
      women, and those of all ages.

      But several groups of voters continued to express
      their dislike of McCain. Evangelicals and Texans who
      call themselves "very conservative" voted for Huckabee
      in greater numbers than for McCain. The senator also
      lost among people who said their top issue was making
      sure the candidate shared their values.

      Looking toward the long march to November, McCain
      acknowledged that he will need to raise more money and
      find a way to pull together a Republican Party whose
      splits have been revealed in the primaries, with the
      underfunded Huckabee winning a string of unlikely
      victories.

      "We have a lot of work to do to unite our party and to
      energize it," said McCain, who heads from Washington
      to Palm Beach, Fla., to begin a swing dominated by
      intensive fundraising.

      McCain's top political adviser, Charles Black, said a
      priority will be to meet with officials at the
      Republican National Committee to mobilize the national
      and state parties, which will be critical to the
      general election.

      Now that he has become the de facto head of the GOP,
      McCain will essentially take over the committee's
      operations, turning its research, get-out-the-vote
      operations and communications into an arm of his
      presidential campaign.

      Looking toward November, McCain has so far aimed much
      of his criticism at Obama, whose performance leading
      up to today's primaries appeared to make him the
      likely nominee. But the tight races in those
      Democratic contests made it clear that McCain and the
      Republicans must be ready to face Clinton, too.

      Top McCain strategists think the fight between Obama
      and Clinton will give them time to raise money,
      develop their strategy and define their own candidate
      to a national audience before a full assault by
      Democrats. McCain has already begun to paint both
      potential rivals as dangerous liberals.

      "Either candidate, either Senator Clinton or Senator
      Obama, we will have stark differences. They are
      liberal Democrats. I am a conservative Republican," he
      told an audience in Texas. He eased through congenial
      events at eateries in San Antonio and Houston before
      flying to Dallas to await returns.

      McCain talked about the themes he hopes will drive the
      fall campaign. Mentioning the economy briefly and
      defending free trade, he quickly moved on to national
      security, the issue he considers his greatest strength
      against the eventual Democratic nominee.

      Three times, he referred to "transcendent radical
      Islamic extremism."

      "It's hard for us to encompass the enormity of the
      evil that we are facing," McCain said, drawing
      sympathetic boos when he said Obama and Clinton want
      to withdraw from Iraq. "If they did that, we would be
      back, and we need to win, and we are winning. . . .
      Al-Qaeda is on the run, but they're not defeated."

      Slevin reported from the McCain campaign in Texas.
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