It's official. Sen. John McCain is the Republican candidate for president of the United States of America. McCain clinched the nomination Tuesday night after winning all four primaries in Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont and emerging with more than the 1,192 delegates he needed to secure the nomination.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, bowed out of the race Tuesday night, vowing to support McCain's bid and offering "my commitment to him and to the party to do everything possible to unite our party but more importantly to unite our country."
On the Democratic side, Sen. Hillary Clinton won with large margins in Ohio and Rhode Island. Sen. Barack Obama easily won Vermont. Results from Texas are less clear. While Sen. Clinton won the primary vote by 51 percent to Obama's 48 percent, the caucus results, which will account for one-third of the delegates allocated, are yet to be announced. With 37 percent of precincts voting, at press time, Sen. Obama was narrowly leading.
Yet while the Republicans can look forward to fielding Sen. McCain in the November election, the Democrats look set for a long battle that could go all the way to the Democratic Convention in Denver this August.
Sen. Obama's campaign is pointing to his lead in pledged delegates – he now has 1,321 pledged delegates, while Sen. Clinton has 1,186. Analysts say mathematically it is impossible for Sen. Clinton to make up the gap in pledged delegates with the states that remain, but if enough of the so-called superdelegates – the party officials who are free to vote for whomever they choose at the convention – decide to go with Sen. Clinton, she still could win on delegate count.
Another wild card is the possibility of repeating the primaries in Florida and Michigan so these states can be counted. Both states were excluded from the Democratic primary because they broke Democratic party rules by moving forward their election dates. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist this week said he would support a redo and Democratic National Committee Chair said he is open to this possibility. Both states, which have large delegate numbers are thought to favor Sen. Clinton.
What is certain is that both candidates intend to continue the battle. The next states to be contested are Wyoming, March 8, Mississippi, March 11, to be followed six weeks later by Pennsylvania, April 22.