Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney pledged to fight all the way to the Republican nominating convention this summer if necessary, despite being overpowered by John McCain in Super Tuesday contests.
But there signs of wavering in his campaign. Officials within it told NBC News that Wednesday would be a day of "frank discussion" about the campaign's future.
Nonetheless, Romney vowed to keep up his fight, casting it as a battle to save the future of the nation.
"I think there's some people who thought it was all going to be done tonight, but it's not all done tonight. We're going to keep on battling," Romney said. "We're going to go all the way to the convention. We're going to win this thing and we're going to go to the White House."
Romney celebrated victories Tuesday in his home state of Massachusetts, as well as wins in Utah and North Dakota. But he was pummeled elsewhere on a day he had hoped to prove his presidential campaign wasn't doomed.
And McCain's victory in California at the end of the day came as a crushing blow amid a blur of 21 elections from coast to coast.
Meanwhile, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee not only won his home state, but supporters for him and McCain conspired to ensure he defeated Romney in West Virginia. McCain's backers threw their votes to Huckabee at the GOP state convention after Romney had led in a muddled first round of balloting.
A deal in West Virginia
The deal was a blow to the former Massachusetts governor, who had flown all night from California to West Virginia to address the convention delegates. Romney had hoped the convention results — announced at early afternoon — would give him a burst of publicity before the other 20 states voting closed their polls. McCain hoped his succession of wins would convince Romney to quit the race.
Romney cast the race as a battle for the nation's future.
"This isn't just about the heart and soul of our party, it isn't just about which party's going to win in November. This is about the future course of our country," he said to about 500 supporters, many of whom wore stunned looks on their faces as the returns came in.
"I'm convinced that if Washington continues on its same course, America will emerge not as the great nation of the 21st Century by the end, but as a second-tier power. It will be passed by someone else; I can't tell you who it will be, but it will be passed by someone else."
Romney added: "That will not happen. We'll keep American strong."
Day of decision for Romney?
Already expecting a muddled outcome, Romney was scheduled to spend Wednesday in his campaign headquarters assessing the results, his ongoing budget and the size of his campaign staff. Each of them was expected to factor into his decision about whether to proceed with his campaign.
The former venture capitalist has already donated at least $35 million to his campaign, and he waffled in recent days when asked what kind of showing would be needed for him to keep going. Romney and his wife, Ann, have agreed to a spending cap, although they won't divulge the figure.
"All these permutations are so significant in their variability that I think you'd have to wait and see the numbers to make any kind of assessment as to where it's going to lead you," Romney told reporters in Charleston, W.Va.
Romney planned to fly commercially to Washington on Thursday morning, eschewing the campaign charter that had ferried him for the past month.
And the campaign reportedly was reconsidering a trip to Kansas ahead of the caucuses there on Saturday.
There also are GOP elections on Saturday in Louisiana and Washington state, as well voting in Maryland and Virginia on Feb. 12.
Walking hand-in-hand to the polls
The Romneys voted at about 2:30 p.m. in their hometown of Belmont, Mass. The couple walked hand-in-hand into Town Hall and joked when election officials tried to show them where to go.
"We know our way," said Romney. His wife added: "Been here 35 years."
Romney asked an election clerk for a sample ballot as a souvenir, and then joked, "That's pretty fun. First time I've ever voted for myself for president."