Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney vowed to stay in the race for the Republican presidential nomination despite big wins by rival John McCain on Super Tuesday.
Romney won a home-state victory in Massachusetts, where he served as governor. He also claimed victory in North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Alaska, Colorado and Utah, where fellow Mormons supported his candidacy.
"I have to tell you there was a special feeling in my heart when I realized that the three places that Anne and I have lived have all voted for us — Massachusetts, Michigan and Utah," Romney said.
Huckabee Wins in South
Huckabee was buoyed by his victory in five southern states, where exit polls showed he did especially well with white born-again Christians.
The former Baptist minister and Arkansas governor had not won a state since his surprise victory in Iowa. For the last two weeks, he has campaigned almost exclusively in Bible Belt states; his strategy paid off with wins in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia and Arkansas.
Huckabee still trails John McCain and Mitt Romney in delegates, but he said Tuesday's wins keep him on the political stage.
In Little Rock, Ark., Huckabee's supporters chanted "Mike is back" as he came out on stage. He said he's in the race to stay.
"A lot of people have tried to push us off the stage and say we aren't relevant anymore. We knew better, and tonight we reaffirmed that our campaign is very much alive, that we have very strong support. The real miracle of it is that with limited resources compared to these other candidates we've captured states that they couldn't capture when they outspent us 20 to one," Huckabee told supporters.
He plans to travel to Kansas, Virginia and Texas — all states that have the evangelical voters that make up his core of support.
McCain Praises Rival
McCain heaped praise on Huckabee on Tuesday, saying the former governor's southern sweep was a testament to his skill as a campaigner.
When it was clear McCain couldn't win West Virginia, his backers threw their support to Huckabee, rather than see that state go to Romney, who had been considered McCain's chief rival.
Despite McCain's huge wins, Romney told his supporters that the primary and caucus results were a beginning — not an end — to his campaign.
"We're going to go all the way to the convention. We're going to win this thing," he told supporters.
Romney continued his message that he wants to bring change to Washington.
"This isn't just about the heart and soul of our party; it isn't just about what party will win in November," he said. "This is about the future course of our country."
Nomination Not Set
With Huckabee and Romney vowing to continue, McCain's nomination is not a foregone conclusion. Romney is still hoping for a conservative backlash against the GOP front-runner. As of mid-morning on Wednesday, McCain leads with 613 delegates; Romney has 269; and 190 are backing Huckabee. It takes 1,191 to win the nomination at this summer's convention in St. Paul, Minn.
But the three top contenders aren't the only candidates with supporters.
Scott Higgins braved cold rain to stand outside a Glastonbury, Conn., polling place with his dog, Red, holding a sign for Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
The Libertarian-leaning Texan has picked up 14 delegates.
"I think he's got more momentum than people are led to believe. I'm very disappointed the mainstream media are shutting him out," Higgins said, adding that Paul has a strong stance on the Constitution.