WASHINGTON – Any hopes that the presidential race would settle down after Super Tuesday were dashed as all five major candidates won states and vowed to continue battling to be the next U.S. president.
On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) solidified his frontrunner status after Tuesday's contests, winning the most states including the delegate rich states of California, Illinois and New York.
McCain has gathered 514 delegates so far in his presidential campaign, including Tuesday night's projections, according to the latest CNN update. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has 177 delegates, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has 122.
Republican candidates need 1,191 delegates for the party's nomination.
"Tonight I think we must get used to the idea that we are the Republican Party front-runner for the nomination of president of the United States," said McCain to reporters as results came in Tuesday. "And I don't really mind it one bit."
The Arizona senator had previously been hesitant to acknowledge his frontrunner status and used the phrases "guardedly optimistic" and "very superstitious" when asked to predict how he'd fare after Super Tuesday.
But influential values voter leader Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family does mind – and quite a bit – that McCain seems to be moving closer to being crowned as the Republican nominee.
"I am deeply disappointed the Republican Party seems poised to select a nominee who did not support a Constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage, voted for embryonic stem-cell research to kill nascent human beings, opposed tax cuts that ended the marriage penalty, has little regard for freedom of speech, organized the Gang of 14 to preserve filibusters in judicial hearings, and has a legendary temper and often uses foul and obscene language," vented Dobson in a statement on the conservative political radio program The Laura Ingraham Show Tuesday.
Dobson, whose own radio program reaches 3.4 million Christian listeners each week, said he is "convinced" that McCain is not a conservative and pointed out his cozy relationship with Democratic contender Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and 2004 Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).
"I cannot, and will not, vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience," Dobson declared.
The pro-family figure said if the Arizona senator becomes the nominee, he will not vote in the general election – the first time, he says, he would not be voting for a president. He dismissed the Democratic candidates as having "virulently anti-family" policy positions.
But two Republican candidates, both touting themselves as conservative and pro-family, remain in the race.
Former Arkansas governor Huckabee, also a former Baptist preacher and said to be a long-time friend of Dobson, won many conservative southern states Tuesday in defiance of pressure earlier to drop out of the race after he suffered a string of losses. Going into Tuesday, the Republican race was largely portrayed as a battle between McCain and Romney.
"Over the past few days, a lot of people have been trying to say that this is a two-man race. Well, you know what? It is, and we're in it," Hucakbee said as the results came in.
The former Arkansas governor won Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Meanwhile, Gov. Romney collected wins in Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana and Utah.
"One thing that's clear – this campaign's going on," Romney said, according to CNN. "I think there's some people who thought that it was all going to be done tonight, but it's not all done tonight. We're going to keep on battling."
Republican conservatives appear evenly split between Huckabee and Romney, according to preliminary exit polls of Super Tuesday voters. About 75 percent of Huckabee voters described themselves as conservative, while 80 percent of Romney voters described themselves as such, the initial exit polls showed.
Less than half (49 percent) of those who voted for McCain described themselves as conservative.
In most states, Hucakbee won the majority support among born-again and evangelical Christian voters. But Huckabee failed to win over evangelical voters in states that strongly backed the other two Republicans, such as McCain supporting states of Illinois and Arizona, and Romney's Massachusetts and Utah.
On the Democratic side, voters remain evenly split between Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). Obama won more states Tuesday, but Clinton won states with higher delegate counts.
Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of Obama voters responded "change" is the top quality they look for in a candidate, while 45 percent of Clinton supporters named experience as the top quality in a candidate. Only 29 percent of Clinton voters said they were looking for a candidate who would produce "change," while just 3 percent of Obama voters said they were looking for a candidate with experience.
Overall, Clinton captured the female vote (52 percent) and the Latino vote, especially Latino women (65 percent).
Obama stole the show among African American voters with 86 percent of black men and 79 percent of black women voting for him. Young voters also flocked to the young and "inspiring" Illinois senator, giving him 59 percent among the youngest voters.
The Democratic candidates need 2,025 delegates to win the party's nomination.
Voters in 24 different states headed to the polls Tuesday and ballots are still currently being counted.