McCain Acknowledges GOP Race Is Not Over Yet

(CBS)
From CBS News' Dante Higgins:

NORFOLK, VA. -- John McCain took his "almost-the-nominee" campaign to Virginia in advance of Tuesday's primary there and acknowledged that it actually still is a two-man race in the Republican party.

"I know that we have a lot of work to do to unite the party," McCain said after holding a national security roundtable here.

"I also know Governor Huckabee is still in this race and is a viable candidate who will continue to show strength, that's why we're moving forward with our campaigning."

"I think that obviously we are pleased with the events that have happened as part of the campaign but we still have a ways to go and we will continue campaigning."

According to CBS News' delegate count, McCain has 700 of the 1,191 delegates needed to capture the nomination. Huckabee trails with 163.

"Obviously if we unite around one candidate hopefully me. Although again, Governor Huckabee remains, I believe, a viable candidate," McCain added.

"If theres a contested race and continues to be contested on the Democratic side then there's more attention to the candidates, more earned media on their side. So, I don't know how this thing plays out. From my personal standpoint, the earlier the better."

Meantime, contrary to reports that President Bush's speech this morning to the Conservative Political Action Conference was an implicit endorsement of McCain, White House deputy press secretary Scott Stanzel said it's "wrong" to portray Bush's remarks that way.

Stanzel added that the president has stayed "studiously neutral" in the presidential race and that Mitt Romney's departure yesterday doesn't coronate McCain, it only "gets us one step closer to a nominee but we're not there yet."

CBS News' Mark Knoller contributed to this report.
  • Andante Higgins

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