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McCain gets mixed message; Dems deadlocked after contests

  • Story Highlights
  • McCain wins Washington state, according to party officials
  • Clinton camp more focused on March contests than remaining February primaries
  • After Louisiana, Kansas wins, Huckabee promises fight: "I majored in miracles"
  • 113 GOP delegates at stake Tuesday; 192 for Dems in Sunday, Tuesday contests
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Republican voters in Louisiana and Kansas told John McCain they weren't ready to support him. Washington state, however, backed the Republican front-runner Saturday over former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, according to state party officials.

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Sen. John McCain has a healthy lead in the GOP contest despite two losses Saturday.

McCain's camp congratulated Huckabee on the victories but with an air of confidence, saying that Huckabee threatened only to chip away at McCain's substantial lead in the GOP race for the presidential nomination.

"The reality is that John McCain is the presumptive nominee of our party," said campaign spokesman Brian Rogers. "We'll campaign in these upcoming states as long as Gov. Huckabee is in the race, but our main focus is on uniting the Republican Party for victory in November."

Sen. Barack Obama swept four Democratic contests over the weekend, giving him considerable momentum heading three primaries Tuesday.

CNN calculations indicate Huckabee needs hundreds more delegates to catch McCain; the Democrats are in a much tighter race. Video Watch what Saturday's results mean in the long run »

With Obama's wins Sunday in Maine and Saturday in Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington and the Virgin Islands, the Illinois senator took the pledged-delegate lead over rival Sen. Hillary Clinton -- 986-924, based on CNN calculations.

But if you count Clinton's 224-to-135 edge among superdelegates, Clinton is still leading the Democratic race 1,148 to 1,121, CNN calculations show. Video Watch the Democratic candidates campaign »

"The stakes are too high and the challenges are too great to play the same old Washington game with the same old Washington players and expect a different result," Obama told a crowd in Richmond, Virginia. "People want to turn the page. They want to write a new chapter in American history." Video Watch Obama rally in Virginia »

Clinton was unfazed by Saturday's upsets and continued to present herself as the most viable candidate to defeat McCain in the general election.

"If I'm your nominee, you will never have to worry that I will be knocked out of the ring because I do have the strength and experience to lead this country," she said. "And I am ready to go toe-to-toe with Senator McCain whenever and wherever he desires." Video Watch Clinton address supporters »

Her campaign also sought to downplay low expectations for Clinton in the remaining Democratic contests this month. Clinton is focusing more closely on the larger cache of delegates up for grabs in March.

"Although the next several states that hold nominating contests this month are more favorable to the Obama campaign, we will continue to compete in them and hope to secure as many delegates as we can before the race turns to Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania," read a statement from the Clinton campaign.

On the Republican side, Huckabee dismissed suggestions Sunday that he is pursuing a vice presidential slot on McCain's ticket. "I'm not interested in being a running mate," he told CBS' "Face the Nation."

After his victories in Kansas and Louisiana on Saturday, Huckabee told CNN that despite McCain's healthy lead among pledged delegates -- 697 to 214, based on CNN calculations -- he has no plans to drop out. Saturday's results, he said, are indicative of a tidal shift among conservatives.

In Louisiana, exit polls showed that a majority of conservatives rejected the Arizona Republican. Only 34 percent of conservatives voted for McCain compared with 50 percent who voted for Huckabee, according to the polls.

"People across America are gravitating toward our campaign and realizing that there is still a choice. And that's what we've said all along -- that this race is far from being over," Huckabee said after the first results came in. Video Watch what Huckabee says about the outcome »

President Bush in an interview Sunday with Fox News said he felt McCain was a "solid conservative" but that he may need some help convincing the GOP base. Though McCain has split with Bush on critical policy issues -- like campaign finance reform and the treatment of detainees -- the president said he would help McCain if he became the GOP presidential nominee.

"I think that if John's the nominee, he's got some convincing to do to convince people that he is a solid conservative," Bush said. "I'd be glad to help him if he's the nominee."

Saturday's contests marked the first without former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who suspended his campaign Thursday.

But even with Romney out, Huckabee faces a daunting challenge. McCain has a significant lead in the delegate count after Super Tuesday. If Huckabee wins every remaining state with 50 percent of the vote to McCain's 40 percent, McCain would still be the nominee, according to CNN calculations. A breakdown of the results »

"I know the pundits, and I know what they say: The math doesn't work out," Huckabee said Saturday morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. "Well, I didn't major in math; I majored in miracles. And I still believe in those, too."

A senior McCain adviser conceded that McCain would probably lose other upcoming caucuses, but said it wasn't a big deal because "our campaign is focusing on a transition from front-runner to nominee."

Huckabee and Obama have done well in caucus states like Iowa, where grassroots efforts are more likely to have greater influence. Obama also picked up a boost in Washington with the endorsement of Gov. Christine Gregoire. Video Watch why turnout was less than miraculous »

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For Democrats, 24 pledged delegates are at stake Sunday in Maine's caucus. On Tuesday, Clinton and Obama will be competing for 15 pledged delegates in Washington, D.C., 70 in Maryland and 83 in Virginia.

McCain and Huckabee will face off Tuesday in three primaries where 113 pledged delegates are at stake: 16 in Washington, D.C., 37 in Maryland and 60 in Virginia. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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