Republican Senator John McCain scored a decisive victory in California's primary, outdistancing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, final results showed on Wednesday.
With 100 percent of California precincts reporting, McCain had 42 percent of the vote, compared to just under 34 percent for Romney. Running a distant third was former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, with 11.5 percent of the vote.
Largely mirroring the statewide results were the votes cast in Los Angeles County -- 43 percent for McCain, 35 percent for Romney and 10.5 percent for Huckabee.
"We have won primaries in the West, the South, the Midwest and the Northeast," McCain told supporters in Phoenix, Arizona.
"And although I've never minded the role of the underdog, and have relished as much as anyone come-from-behind wins, 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. And I don't really mind it one bit."
Some pundits had speculated that McCain could be assured of thenomination following the voting Tuesday, when 22 states held primaries and caucuses in the biggest one-day round of presidential primary voting in U.S. history.
But while the Arizona senator performed well, he did not do well enough to claim such a victory. Needing the backing of 1,191 delegates for the Republican nomination, he was reported to have won 511 around the nation Tuesday for a total of 613, compared to Romney, who won 176 delegates in the primaries and now has a total of 269. Huckabee won 147 delegates Wednesday for a total of 190.
McCain has shocked pundits with his rise to the top of the Republican field after substantially trailing former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in national polls during much of 2007.
McCain has received a slew of high-profile endorsements since winning last Tuesday's Florida primary. When Giuliani announced his withdrawal from the race Wednesday, he also backed McCain, calling him the most qualified candidate.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has endorsed McCain, praising him for his environmental positions, national security credentials and curbing wasteful spending.
The Los Angeles Times endorsed McCain Friday, declaring that "he has waged a principled and persistent effort to end the Bush administration's embrace of torture as a weapon of war, a frightening concession to terrorism and an abdication of basic American values."
Most of the attention resulting from Tuesday's vote count will be lavished on statewide figures, but the results by congressional district will be of far more importance.
The statewide winner receives 11 delegates to the Republican National Convention, which will formally designate the party's nominee, while three delegates will be awarded to the top vote-getter in each of the state's 53 congressional districts.