WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain padded his lead in the race for Republican national convention delegates Wednesday, amassing far more than his three remaining rivals combined as he prodded conservative critics to cut him some slack.

The delegate count was far tighter in the Democratic race, where Hillary Rodham Clinton held a relatively narrow lead of 98 over Barack Obama in a struggle likely to reverberate through the spring.

McCain was leaving the other Republican candidates in the dust and looking for criticism from his own party to ease up.

"I do hope that at some point we would just calm down a little bit and see if there's areas we can agree on," he said, one day in advance of an appearance before conservative activists who have shunned his candidacy.

Nearly complete delegate returns from coast-to-coast races on Super Tuesday left McCain with 703 delegates, nearly 60 percent of the 1,191 needed to win the nomination at the convention in St. Paul, Minn., this summer.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had 260, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee 190 and Texas Rep. Ron Paul 14.

Despite the lengthening odds, Romney and Huckabee showed no clear signs they were ready to exit the race.

The Democratic delegate count lagged, the result of party rules that shunned the type of winner-take-all primaries that helped McCain build his advantage.

On Tuesday's busiest primary night in history, Clinton and Obama were separated by 40 delegates, with several hundred yet to be allocated.

Overall, that left Clinton with 1,000, and Obama with 902, neither of them even halfway to the 2,025 needed to secure the Democratic nomination.