Republican Sen. John McCain claimed the mantle of front-runner after a string of Super Tuesday victories in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Nine of the Republican contests Tuesday were winner-take-all states, and that is where John McCain piled up his lead.
However, his opponents Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee say the race is far from over.
McCain won the big states he needed like delegate-rich California and New York, making him a happy man during his victory appearance in Phoenix, Ariz.
"I think we must get used to the idea that we are the Republican Party front-runner for the nomination of the President of the United States," he told an enthusiastic audience.
The victory would have been particularly sweet if California was also a winner-take-all state like in days of old. Instead it is distributed by Congressional district, McCain's California chairman Bill Jones said.
"So it's like 50-plus New Hampshire's, all happening in the same day," Jones told CBN News.
Appeasing the Critics
On Wednesday, McCain asked his critics to "calm down" and support his campaign.
"I think they've made their case against me pretty eloquently," he said, adding wryly, "if that's the right word."
He reminded talk-show hosts and other conservative critics that President Ronald Reagan reached across the aisle to Democrats. McCain wants to do the same as president, in order to get things done in Washington.
"I do hope that at some point we would just calm down a little bit and see if there are areas that we can agree on for the good of the party and for the good of the country," he said.
His ever-vocal critics have argued that McCain is too liberal to be the GOP nominee.
McCain needs to win over Republican conservatives who, up until now, have leaned toward Romney and Huckabee. His senior advisors say they think McCain can pull them all to his side.
"He's been a true conservative, fiscally, socially, right on down the line," said senior advisor Grant Wood. "I think conservatives can feel comfortable with him."
"He has a great conservative record," Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., told CBN News. "Nobody in Washington has stood tougher on spending for example and that's been really the downfall of Republicans in the last couple of years is simply excessive spending."
Romney: Not Surrendering
Former Gov. Romney had hinted he needed to win California, but wasn't surrendering Tuesday night after winning seven other states.
"We think some people thought that it was all going to be done tonight, but it's not all done tonight," Romney told a crowd of cheering supporters. "We're going to keep on battling. We're going to go all the way to the convention."
But former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee still may have something to say about that at the convention. Huckabee scored some surprising wins Tuesday night and vows his campaign will continue.
"We heard the pundits, but this is our election not theirs," Huckabee said in his speech. "This is our presidency not theirs."
Washington State and Kansas hold their Republican caucuses this Saturday.
Next Tuesday, voters in the states of Virginia, Maryland as well as Washington D.C. head to the polls for their respective primaries.
Sources: Associated Press, ABC News