The nomination fight between Romney and McCain had become contentious towards its end, especially as conservatives unhappy with the idea of McCain as the Republican nominee looked to Romney as their great white hope. But Thursday -- perhaps in a Valentine's Day spirit, who can say? -- the two played the best of friends.
"This isn't my first joint appearance with Senator John McCain, but it promises to be one of our more pleasant exchanges," Romney said. "As you all saw over the past year, things can get rough in a political campaign. And in the thick of the fight it's easy to lose sight of your opponent's finer qualities. But in the case of Senator John McCain, I could never quite do that. Even when the contest was close and our disagreements were debated, the caliber of the man was apparent... This is a man capable of leading our country at a dangerous hour... This is a man who tied his political fortunes to the fortunes of his country in a time of war... This is a man who has served and suffered for his country."
In his remarks, Romney asked all the delegates he won during his campaign to vote for McCain when the Republican convention rolls around this summer. With those added delegates in hand, the McCain campaign is claiming that it has clinched the nomination. A delegate count on the campaign Web site shows McCain with 903 delegates and Romney with 289 for a total of 1,192, one more than is needed for victory.
Mike Huckabee, the one major Republican candidate left in the race, wasn't willing to concede defeat, however. In a statement, Huckabee said of the endorsement, "This goes to show there is a lot of 'me too' going on in the party. I just happen to be the leader of the 'not me' crowd. There are those from the Beltway and those of the party establishment who believe its time for the Republican Party to pull together, but there are still a lot of voices that have not been heard. This election should be about choices and voices, and not a coronation. Until someone receives 1,191 delegates, the verdict is not in."