(CNN) – Sen. John McCain expressed pleasure and gratitude over his Super Tuesday showing and declared, "We will unite the party behind our conservative principles and move forward and win the general election in November."
The morning after proclaiming that he is now the front-runner among Republicans seeking the nation's highest office, the senator from Arizona told reporters in Phoenix, "I'm very pleased about the victory last night, obviously."
Standing in front of his "Straight Talk Express" bus, flanked by the man he has called his "favorite Democrat," Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, McCain said he was "pleased at the depth and breadth of our victory last night."
Supporters like Lieberman and Graham, he said, "gave us a broad base of support from all parts of this party."
McCain said he has canceled a planned trip abroad this weekend in order to "wrap this up as quickly as possible."
Asked about concern among "very conservative" Republicans that McCain is not conservative enough for their tastes, McCain said he is not worried.
"With conservative voters, which are the majority of Republicans, we did extremely well," he said. And comparing his home state with that of is conservative rival, he said, "We won by a much larger margin in Arizona than Governor (Mitt) Romney did in Massachusetts."
"Is there a lot of work to unite the entire party?" he asked rhetorically "Sure. After the campaigns are over, you've always got the task of uniting the party behind the nominee."
But he expressed confidence he can do just that. "Our message will be we all share common conservative principles," he said. "Fundamental conservative political philosophy, which has been my record."
McCain then addressed the issues that motivated many voters in Tuesday's elections. The nation is in "difficult economic times," but raising taxes "exacerbates the difficulties," he said.
He reiterated the he would cut wasteful spending rather than raise taxes, which "would be the worst thing we could do to our economy."
And he backed the call by President Bush for Congress to move quickly to pass an economic stimulus measure.
"If we say we're going to pass a stimulus package and then we don't, then that contributes to the cynicism and lack of trust."
McCain took pains to single out Lieberman as "a chapter in 'Profiles in Courage'" - an example of the kind of bipartisan politician he admires. "We
have a guy here who would stand up against his entire party and say, 'We've got to stand the course in Iraq,'" said McCain, who supports Bush's stay-the-course approach in that country.
"Al Qaeda will win if we do what the Democrats want us to do," he said about the Democratic presidential candidates' plans to draw down U.S. forces from Iraq quickly if one of them becomes commander in chief.