Arizona Senator John McCain officially clinched the Republican nomination for President after reaching the 1,191 delegates needed by winning the Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island and Vermont primaries Tuesday.
“So stand up with me my friends,” McCain asked a cheering crowd of supporters at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas, Texas. “Stand up and fight for America, for her strengths for her ideals and her future.”
“The contest begins tonight,” he said breaking into a smile.
In his victory speech, McCain highlighted contrasts he would draw between himself and the Democratic nominee in the general election.
“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,” he said.
McCain specifically challenged the undecided Democratic nominee on trade, healthcare, energy and education issues, but namely security issues.
“As you well know, America is at war in two countries, and involved in a long and difficult fight which file extremists who despise us, our values and modernity itself,” he said. “It of little use for Americans for their candidates to avoid the many complex challenges of these struggles by litigating decisions of the past.”
“I will defend the decision to destroy Saddam Hussein’s regime,” McCain vowed.
As McCain delivered his speech, ballot results for critical Democratic primaries in Ohio and Texas were not yet tallied. Clinton had been declared the winner of Rhode Island and Obama the winner of Vermont.
President George W. Bush is expected to lunch with McCain at the White House and then formally endorse him in a Rose Garden ceremony Wednesday.
In his concession speech to McCain, former Republican Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee praised the Arizona senator. “He has run an honorable campaign and is an honorable man,” said Huckabee of his competitor.
“We will work hard for the country and the nominee because we love this country and that’s why we got in,” Huckabee promised.