Dallas, Texas: Senator John McCain on 4 March seized the Republicans’ White House mantle with a promise to defeat Islamic extremism and keep the US economy open to world trade if elected president in November.
McCain beat former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in all four of the day’s primaries — Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island.
The victories took McCain, a Vietnam war hero who is distrusted by many conservatives for his maverick stance on issues such as immigration, over the Republican winning line of 1,091 delegates.
“Thank you, Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island. I am very grateful for the broad support you have given our campaign,” the 71-year-old senator told supporters in a Dallas hotel.
“And I am very pleased to note that tonight, my friends, we have won enough delegates to claim with confidence, humility and a sense of great responsibility that I will be the Republican nominee for president of the United States.”
The 71-year-old Vietnam war hero lauded his defeated rival, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, as a “great and fine and decent American.”
Capping one of the great political comebacks after his campaign looked down and out last summer, McCain laid out the lines of attack he would pursue against either of his Democratic foes — Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.
“I will defend the decision to destroy Saddam Hussein’s regime (in Iraq) as I criticized the failed tactics that were employed for too long to establish the conditions that will allow us to leave that country with our country’s interests secure and our honour intact,” he said.
McCain pledged “the swiftest possible conclusion” to the war without allowing sectarian conflict to degenerate into “genocide” or allow “terrorists to attack us elsewhere with weapons we dare not allow them to possess.”
“The next president must lead an effort to restructure our military, our intelligence, our diplomacy and all relevant branches of government to combat Islamic extremism, encourage the vast majority of moderates to win the battle for the soul of Islam, and meet the many other rising challenges in this changing world.”
The Republican pledged lower taxes and economic deregulation, and confronted attacks by Obama and Clinton on the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“I will leave it to my opponent to argue that we should abrogate trade treaties, and pretend the global economy will go away and Americans can secure our future by trading and investing only among ourselves,” he said.
McCain promised “to make a respectful, determined and convincing case to the American people” that his conservative ideas were preferable to the Democrats’ “failed, big-government mandates of the 60s and 70s.”
“We are the captains of our fate. We’re not a country that prefers nostalgia to optimism; a country that would rather go back than forward,” he added.
“We’re the world’s leader, and leaders don’t pine for the past and dread the future. We make the future better than the past. We don’t hide from history. We make history.
“So stand up with me, my friends, stand up and fight for America — for her strength, her ideals, and her future. The contest begins tonight.”