All three campaigns exchanged words on whether McCain and Huckabee had brokered a "backroom deal" to ensure Romney's defeat. While McCain and Huckabee both denied the allegations, Romney's camp remained convinced a deal had been made.
A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed McCain favored by 37 percent of conservative voters going into Super Tuesday, a number that has grown significantly since December, when the senator was favored by only 15 percent. Opposition to McCain among conservatives is said to be his major weakness in the Republican primary race.
Romney was running second in many national polls, Huckabee third and Texas Rep. Ron Paul fourth.
But with a total of 21 states voting in a combination of Republican primaries, caucuses and conventions, 1,038 delegates are at stake, just under the 1,191 needed for the nomination. Some 270 delegates are up for grabs in the state of California alone.
In 10 states, Republican parties have ruled that all the delegates go to the winner — a system known as winner-take-all states. But all of the Democratic delegates are awarded proportionally, based on the results of the primary or caucus.
As for what's on the minds of Republican voters, preliminary results of our national exit poll indicate the economy is the top issue, followed by immigration, the war in Iraq and then terrorism. This is a switch from six months ago, when Iraq was the biggest worry for GOP voters. Additionally, "shares my values" is substantially more important than "experience" as a quality voters want in a candidate.
The front-runners spent the days leading up to Super Tuesday crisscrossing the country in a last-ditch effort to wrangle as many voters as possible — particularly in the Golden State, where pre-primary polls have not indicated any candidate out in front.
McCain and Romney have focused much of their campaign time in the last few days on California, where so many delegates are at stake.
Both candidates scheduled last-minute stops in the Golden State. Monday night Romney flew overnight in order to squeeze in a visit to Long Beach and McCain — who was recently endorsed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — held an airport rally in San Diego Tuesday.
In Missouri, the bellwether winner-take-all state, Romney won endorsements from Gov. Matt Blunt and former Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri., who has been campaigning on Romney's behalf. But that was only enough to get him a third-place finish.
In the South, Tennessee was one of the few states where Huckabee was expected to be a potential contender — especially after former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson's recent departure from the race. He took that state, getting 34 percent of the vote to McCain's 32 percent.
And amid the traveling and campaigning, there were harsh words exchanged between and about the candidates just hours before Super Tuesday.
Monday, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh lashed out against McCain, urging his listeners not to vote for the Republican and warning that if they did, the senator would destroy the Republican Party.
McCain continued to defend himself against charges that he's too liberal, while at the same time his opponent, Romney, spread the word across the country that Republicans wanted a conservative, not McCain.
Romney also took swipes at Huckabee, suggesting the former governor's time to drop out of the race had finally come.