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By Wes Allison, Times Staff Writer
Published March 5, 2008
WASHINGTON - Arizona Sen. John McCain, whose candidacy had been left for dead as recently as the fall, clinched the Republican nomination Tuesday and turned his full attention to the task of consolidating Republican voters behind him.
After McCain won soundly in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont on Tuesday, his remaining mainstream opponent, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, dropped out of the race and promised to help McCain win the White House.
"I understand the responsibilities I incur with this nomination, and I give you my word I will not evade or slight a single one," McCain told supporters in Dallas as he surpassed the 1,191 delegate threshold. "Our campaign must be and will be more than another tired debate of false promises, empty sound bites or useless arguments from the past that address not a single American's concerns for their family's security."
Formally winning the nomination opened the door for President Bush's endorsement today and allows McCain to focus full time on the general election. The two are scheduled to have lunch together at the White House.
The New York Times reported that Sen. Barack Obama called McCain from his hotel room in San Antonio, Texas, to congratulate him. Obama also said he looked forward to running against him in the fall.
McCain's ascension was somewhat anticlimatic, considering Huckabee's one-horse campaign these days, but it marked a remarkable comeback for a candidate whose campaign only six months ago was considered too threadbare and impoverished to compete.
Then McCain's gamble to concentrate his limited resources on New Hampshire's early January primary paid off handsomely.
Buoyed by independents and moderate Republicans, and aided by Huckabee's penchant for draining evangelical voters from McCain's chief rival, Mitt Romney, McCain went on to sweep New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.
After McCain won across much of the country on Super Tuesday, Romney bowed out and McCain's nomination was virtually assured. But Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister popular with evangelical voters, stayed in the race to make sure he couldn't take it for granted.
Tuesday night in Irving, Texas, Huckabee delivered a gracious speech congratulating McCain and promising to help him win election. "I called Sen. McCain a few moments ago," Huckabee told supporters just past 9 p.m. with his wife, Janet, at his side.
"I extended to him not only my congratulations but my commitment to him and the party to do everything possible to unite our party, but more importantly to unite our country so we can be the best nation we can be."
McCain could use his help. He is popular among moderate Republicans and independent voters but has had trouble with the party's conservative wing, which has clashed with him on matters ranging from campaign finance reform to stem cell research to immigration reform.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who remains in the race, has not indicated when he will concede but his departure is inevitable.
Information from the Associated Press, New York Times and Chicago Tribune was used in this report.
[Last modified March 5, 2008, 02:20:01]