John McCain won the GOP primaries in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, Tuesday, withstanding a strong challenge from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
McCain's wins add to his insurmountable lead in delegates for the GOP nomination, solidifying his role as the party front-runner.
"I do not seek the presidency on the presumption that I am blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save my country in its hour of need," McCain told a crowd of supporters.
"I seek the presidency with the humility of a man who cannot forget that my country saved me," he said. McCain is a former Navy aviator who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam after his plane was shot down.
McCain credited Huckabee, who gave the senator a close call in Virginia. Huckabee also said he had called McCain to congratulate him but that the senator had not asked him to bow out of the race.
"He certainly keeps things interesting, a little too interesting at times tonight, I must confess," McCain said. "But I have even more reason to appreciate just how formidable a campaigner he is."
Despite trailing far behind the Arizona senator in the delegate count, Huckabee has said he will stay in the race. McCain has 789 delegates to Huckabee's 241, according to a tally by The Associated Press.
"There is still a sense in the Republican Party to have a choice," Huckabee said after a strong showing in Virginia.
In Virginia, while exit polls showed that Christian evangelicals largely sided with Huckabee, they were not enough to overcome McCain's lead in the state. The win gives all of Virginia's 60 delegates to McCain.
Early returns had given Huckabee a slight lead ahead of McCain, with four in 10 Republicans identifying themselves as evangelical Christians. Roughly 70 percent of self-identified evangelical believers supported Huckabee.
Also, conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh appears to have affected some Republican voters in Virginia. Those who said they listened to him were more likely to vote for Huckabee, while non-listeners were more likely to support McCain.
Virginia voters could vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary.
Delays and Delegates
Icy roads in Maryland prompted a judge extend voting by 90-minute, delaying returns and the allocation of delegates there.
There are just over 100 delegates at stake in the three GOP races in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
It takes 1,191 delegates to clinch the Republican nomination. McCain could reach that target by April.
Source: The Associated Press