"Don't fear this campaign, my fellow Republicans. Join it. Join it," he said, describing himself as a Republican "in the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan," who "practices the politics of addition, not the politics of division. We are creating a new majority, my friends, the McCain majority."
With the race more competitive than ever, Bush and McCain are entering an important 13-day period in which a majority of the convention delegates will be decided.
Tuesday, Virginia and Washington state will hold primaries open to all registered voters, while North Dakota holds caucuses that McCain will not contest.
A week later, on March 7, what amounts to a national primary will be held. Thirteen states, including Maryland, will hold primaries or caucuses, most open only to Republicans. (In Maryland, independents, but not Democrats, may vote in the GOP primary.) In addition, there will be competing Democratic primaries on that day for the first time since the New Hampshire primary.
Looking to California
Scott W. Reed, who ran Bob Dole's 1996 campaign, said one of the key contests that day will be in New York, where Bush's support among party leaders has begun to erode. But the biggest test will be California, a must-win state for both parties and a microcosm of the country.
"It'll have huge reverberations across the country," said Reed, who is neutral in this year's contest.
GOP pollster DiVall, who recently returned from the nation's most populous state, said California voters are not locked into supporting Bush and will take another look at McCain after his latest victories.
"It is a very volatile situation," she said. "This is a very competitive race."
John McCain 50%
George W. Bush 44%
Alan L. Keyes 5%
80% of precincts reporting
John McCain 60%
George W. Bush 36%
Alan L. Keyes 4%
69% of precincts reporting