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Sunday, 20 February, 2000, 05:14 GMT
McCain fights on

John McCain and his wife Cindy All smiles from Mr McCain and his wife, Cindy

Arizona Senator John McCain has vowed to continue his fight for the Republican presidential nomination after losing South Carolina's crucial primary.

The former Vietnam veteran rang to congratulate his rival, George W Bush, soon after exit polls showed the Texas governor scoring a decisive victory.

We have just begun to fight and I can't wait for the next round
John McCain
But after conceding defeat, a pugnacious Mr McCain threw down the gauntlet ahead of the next round of Republican primaries on Tuesday.

"I look forward to seeing you in Michigan and Arizona," he told his opponent from his South Carolina headquarters.

"You don't have to win every skirmish to win a war or a crusade," he said in a hard-hitting speech to supporters.

Negative campaign

He pledged to keep fighting to kick big money interests out of American politics.

George W Bush A thumbs-up from the victor
But he also criticised the negative tactics that characterised the South Carolina campaign.

"I'm going to keep fighting clean, I'm going to keep fighting fair and I'm going to keep fighting the battle of ideas, and we are going to win," he said.

Senator McCain said he would continue to offer a choice "between my optimistic and welcoming conservatism and the negative message of fear".

I will not take the low road to the highest office in this land
John McCain
He would place before voters "a choice between a record of reform and an empty slogan of reform, a choice between experience and pretence".

Bush 'energised'

His comments were a clear dig at his opponent's hard-hitting style.

We come roaring out of South Carolina with a new energy in our campaign
George W Bush
Mr Bush, meanwhile, expressed relief after recovering from embarrassing defeat in New Hampshire's leadoff primary nearly three weeks ago.

"Relieved is not the right word. I'm excited and energised."

"We come roaring out of South Carolina with a new energy in our campaign," he said.

"The pundits were saying a big turnout would be harmful to my candidacy when in fact this campaign ignited and united the Republican base."

"I convinced the people of this state that I have an agenda that is positive and hopeful and that I'm a reformer who has good results when given a chance."

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See also:
20 Feb 00 |  Americas
Bush wins South Carolina
04 Jan 00 |  Profiles
John McCain: Ready-made war hero

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