McCain Sees Work Ahead to Win Conservatives

Super Tuesday pushed Republican presidential candidate John McCain well ahead of his opponents in the delegate chase, but it did little to resolve the underlying differences with the GOP. McCain held a news conference Wednesday to look ahead.

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Republican presidential candidate John McCain says he's very pleased with the big wins in yesterday's Super Tuesday contest. But even though he's now the clear frontrunner in the race for delegates, McCain says he has a lot of work left to do to win over conservatives.

NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: John McCain now has more than half the delegates he needs to lock up the GOP nomination while his Republican rivals lag far behind. Still, a map of yesterday's results suggest the Republican Party is more divided than the delegate totals alone might indicate.

Mitt Romney won a half-dozen states in the West while Mike Huckabee showed solid strength in the South. John McCain has decided not to attend a NATO security meeting in Europe this weekend, which might have served as a kind of victory lap, instead, the Arizona senator is still running hard.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): We'll be hitting the campaign trail tomorrow morning and hopefully we can wrap this thing out, unite the party and be ready to take on the Democratic nominee in November.

HORSLEY: This weekend brings Republican contests in Kansas, Washington State, and Louisiana, followed by primaries Tuesday in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. The Kansas and Washington State contests are caucuses. Romney has tended to do well in caucus states.

Tomorrow, both Romney and McCain will address the conservative political action committee in Washington, D.C. McCain has struggled to win support among the most conservative members of his party, many of whom back Romney. McCain says he's confident he can mend fences.

Sen. McCAIN: Do we have a lot of work to do to unite the entire party? Sure. I've been involved in many, many campaigns, and after the campaigns are over, you've always got the task of uniting the party behind the nominee. And I've spent my political career in doing that and I'm confident we will do that with the Republican Party now.

HORSLEY: McCain says he'll be trying to reassure conservatives he shares their principles of low taxes, limited government and strong defense. At the same time, he'll be trying to show independent voters and even Democrats he's willing to reach across the aisle to get things done.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Phoenix.

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Race, Ideology Shaped Super Tuesday Vote

Super Tuesday's results reinforced the exit polls from earlier primaries, proving that race, class, gender and political ideology do matter in this presidential race.

As she had done in earlier contests, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton won the support of older voters, women, Latinos and those who said they value experience over change. In California, New York and New Jersey, she easily won the Latino vote 2-to-1.

Her rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, appealed to the polar opposites of Clinton's base: the young, the affluent and African-Americans. In California, New Jersey and other states, Obama took more than 75 percent of the African-American vote. Nationally, he also did much better than Clinton with the voting bloc of 18- to 29-year-olds.

In the Republican contests, exit polls showed that independents and moderates favored Arizona Sen. John McCain, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee split the conservative vote.

In states such as New Jersey, McCain appealed to voters who said they valued experience and honesty. Republican voters worried about illegal immigration overwhelmingly favored Romney.

The exit polling was done in 16 states including New Jersey, California, Missouri and Delaware by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for the National Election Pool.

For voters in both parties, the economy was the major issue.

But nuances also appeared in these well-worn storylines. Although Clinton took the Latino vote in key states California, New York and New Jersey, Obama won Hispanic voters in Connecticut (which has a similar Latino population to New York's) and made a strong showing with Latino voters in New Mexico — where close to 45 percent of the population considers itself Hispanic.

Huckabee's and Romney's showings also gave pollsters something to ponder. Romney won his home state of Massachusetts, along with North Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado and Montana. But Huckabee won a swath of Southern states, including Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas and Tennessee — his best showing and his only string of victories since the Iowa caucuses.

As for the candidates who are most likely to win their party's nomination, the results of more than 20 contests Tuesday brought the Republican contest into sharper focus, with Sen. John McCain grabbing wins in key states and extending a lead over his remaining rivals.

There is less clarity on the Democratic side, as Obama stuck close to Clinton in the delegate count, setting the stage for an even longer battle for the nomination.

Meanwhile, Romney and Huckabee are vowing to stay in the GOP race despite trailing McCain, who may still be searching for the magic formula to forge a truly "Big Tent" Republican party.

From NPR reports

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