Coming into Super Tuesday, the Republican race for the nomination still had an air of competition about it. John McCain was leading comfortably but Mitt Romney was in with a chance. With 22 states voting on the day a strong showing could set the billionaire’s presidential bid back on the path to prosperity. Then West Virginia happened. It was the first state to declare a result and it went to Mike Huckabee — a devastating result for the Romney campaign, which had maintained a strong presence in the state and, without any real competition, had expected a clear win. Romney’s loss was both Huckabee’s and McCain’s gain, and a sign of things to come.

As it stands this morning McCain has declared himself the frontrunner, without false bravado. According to MSNBC, he has nearly three times as many delegates as Romney (720 to 256) and is just 471 short of becoming the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee. But in the face of what now seems an impossible task, Romney, publicly at least, has vowed to fight on. “It’s not all done tonight. We’re going to keep on battling,” he said, proving that optimism is as important to his punt on the Presidency as his personal wealth.

McCain nearly unstoppable: John McCain’s string of cross-country victories made him all but unstoppable – and proved his appeal across a broad swath of the Republican Party. The Arizona senator was racking up enough convention delegates in Super Tuesday’s coast-to-coast voting to put him within reach of the coveted GOP presidential nomination that eluded him eight years ago. Mitt Romney faced a decision of whether to stretch out the bruising race for another few weeks while Mike Huckabee competed for – and in some ways found – relevancy. — Liz Sidoti, AP

Time to start over: It is a wonderful system indeed that can take a long look at America’s Mayor and hand him his hat. The man thought he could get by on symbolism, but the more people saw of him, the less they liked him. The more he spent on marketing, the better John McCain looked. And there, in a nutshell, is why you and I have sensibly stayed out of the race. Delusional grandiose self-absorption is not a qualification for high office. Goodbye, Rudy and Judy. Have a nice day somewhere. — Garrison Keillor, Salon

McCain didn’t close the deal: Mike Huckabee’s showing yesterday was stronger than many had imagined. Winning in West Virginia’s caucuses early in the day, Huckabee partnered with McCain to block Romney. Later, in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee, Huckabee proved he could boost a national ticket from the vice presidential slot. A McCain-Huckabee ticket now appears a real possibility. The two get along better than either does with Romney. If they are strong in the remaining February primaries — DC, Maryland, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin — Romney’s chances may evaporate before month’s end. — Jed Babbin, Human Events

The repudiation of Rove: Blessed, in Romney, with an opponent who approaches the Platonic Ideal of Inauthenticity, McCain has racked up primary-season successes more because of the personal contrasts between the two candidates than because of differences of program. But his personal merits have yet to sway those Republicans who classify themselves in the polls as very conservative. A more direct affront to the Republican strategy devised by Karl Rove — to build support within the party’s right-wing base and then try to win over just enough moderates to carry elections — cannot be imagined. – Harold Meyerson, Washington Post

McCain crowner – now what?: What does John McCain do now? He is certainly the undisputed Republican front-runner. But how does he spend the crucial weeks and months ahead? Does he try to win over Republican conservatives who still distrust him in order to build a strong foundation within his own party? Or does he make overtures to moderate and independent voters, those people who might be the margin of victory in November against the Democratic nominee? – Roger Simon, Politico

Surging McCain ready to take it over top: The overall results Tuesday showed that McCain had not sold himself to critical conservatives after his definitive victory in Florida. Furthermore, he is still at a distinct money disadvantage against Romney’s partially self-financed campaign. In California, Romney spent $10 million on TV and radio this week, while McCain had to make do with a few radio ads and some telephone calls. But Romney has not taken advantage of McCain’s weakness. Otherwise, Huckabee could not have capitalized on his evangelical voters. Tuesday’s balloting showed the mantle of Ronald Reagan still goes unclaimed. – Robert Novak, Chicago Sun-Times

Peter Fray

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