McCain seals nomination, leading Huckabee to drop out

DALLAS (BP)--John McCain sealed the Republican nomination March 4 in part by drawing evangelical votes from Mike Huckabee, while Democrat Hillary Clinton gave her campaign a much-needed boost by winning three of four primary states against rival Barack Obama.

McCain's sweep of Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont gave him the required 1,191 delegates to clinch the nomination, forcing Huckabee out of the race. The former Arkansas governor and Southern Baptist pastor had promised to withdraw once McCain was the nominee.

During his victory speech, McCain called Huckabee a friend and commended Huckabee's supporters for their "passionate commitment."

"Now, we begin the most important part of our campaign -- to make a respectful, determined and convincing case to the American people that our campaign and my election as president, given the alternatives presented by our friends in the other party, are in the best interests of the country we love," McCain said.

Huckabee won in Ohio and Texas among voters who profess to be evangelical or born-again, but McCain wasn't far behind. In Ohio, Huckabee won among that constituency 48-45 percent, and in Texas, 49-42 percent. Evangelicals made up 44 percent of GOP voters in Ohio and 60 percent of such voters in Texas.

Huckabee did win a majority of votes among those who attend church more than once a week. In Ohio he won that group 54-46 percent, and in Texas, 60-33 percent. But that constituency is in the minority; it made up 18 percent of Ohio Republican voters and 28 percent of Texas GOP voters. (Exit polls were not conducted among Republicans in Rhode Island and Vermont.)

During his concession speech, Huckabee called McCain an "honorable man" who had run an "honorable campaign." Huckabee also said he was committed to seeing the Republican Party united and to McCain winning the White House.

"One of the things I'm proudest of is that the two campaigns that I believe have been run in the most civil manner are the two in the Republican Party that have lasted on their feet to the final," Huckabee said before turning his attention to his campaign. "... No one has ever gotten this far with such limited resources. But the fact is what we've been able to do was to ask of every one of our staff that they work as if they were two or three people, and they worked as if they were four. And I want to say thanks to them, every last one of them."

Huckabee quoted from Scripture twice, including referencing the Apostle Paul's famous words to Timothy: "I fought the good fight. I've finished the race. And I've kept the faith," Huckabee said.

"We'd like to have finished it first, but we stayed in until the race was over," he said. "And that for me has been the most important goal of all. I'd rather lose an election than lose the principles that got me into politics in the first place. We started this effort with very little recognition and virtually no resources. We ended with slightly more recognition and very few resources."

Huckabee told the story of several contributors, including one woman who sold her wedding ring on eBay and gave the money to the campaign.

"I only pray to God that I've been able to give them a voice, a voice for the unborn children of this country, a voice for life," he said.

On the Democratic side, the winner among weekly churchgoers was the winner in all four primaries. Clinton won among that group, 51-47 percent, in both Ohio and Texas -- two key states she carried -- and 62-37 percent among weekly churchgoers in Rhode Island, which she also carried. Obama won among that constituency, 60-40 percent, in Vermont, which he carried. Weekly churchgoers made up 34 percent of Democratic voters in Ohio, 42 percent in Texas, 36 percent in Rhode Island and 17 percent in Vermont. (Unlike Republican exit polls, Democratic exit polls do not include a question asking voters if they are professing evangelicals.)

Clinton still trails Obama in the delegate count, but her three victories gave her the ability to stay in the race. Her husband had said she had to win Ohio and Texas if she were to win the nomination.

Clinton had not won a primary or caucus since Super Tuesday, Feb. 5.

"You know what they say, as Ohio goes, so goes the nation," she said during her victory speech. "Well, this nation's coming back, and so is this campaign.... You know, they call Ohio a bellwether state. It's a battleground state. It's a state that knows how to pick a president. And no candidate in recent history, Democrat or Republican, has won the White House without winning the Ohio primary."

Compiled by Michael Foust, assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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