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Obama, McCain Sweep 'Potomac Primaries'

Republican presidential hopeful and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks to supporters at a campaign rally on Feb. 11 in Richmond, Virginia.
Republican presidential hopeful and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks to supporters at a campaign rally on Feb. 11 in Richmond, Virginia.

Democratic Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain swept the "Potomac Primary" on Tuesday, winning their respective parties' events in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

McCain's victories add to his extensive delegate lead in the race for the GOP nomination; the contests in D.C. and Virginia were winner-take-all. For his part, Obama has now won eight victories in a row (counting the Virgin Islands on Saturday) and pushed ahead of his rival, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, in the race for Democratic convention delegates.

Overall, Obama won about two-thirds of the 168 pledged delegates up for grabs in Tuesday's Democratic contests, while among Republicans, McCain collected 60 in Virginia, 16 in D.C. and a total of more than 100 of the 113 available on the day.


Speaking at a rally in Wisconsin, site of the next primary on Feb. 19, Obama told supporters, "This is the new American majority. This is what change looks like from the bottom up."

McCain looked toward the general election in his victory speech, saying that a much "bigger decision" lay ahead. "We don't know for certain who will be the Democratic nominee for president," he said, "but we know where they will lead the country."

McCain also thanked former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for keeping the race "interesting."

"Maybe a little too interesting tonight," he added. Early results from Tuesday's voting showed McCain and Huckabee in a tight race in Virginia, though McCain eventually claimed the state with a 9 percent margin of victory.

In his concession, Huckabee told supporters that he would campaign until McCain received the 1,191 Republican delegates necessary to clinch the nomination. He added that Republican voters were not ready to embrace McCain, since there is still a "sense in the Republican Party to have a choice." But that message had far less punch tonight than it had a week ago, after Huckabee had won five states, or Saturday night, after he had won two of three events on the day.


For her part, Clinton looked ahead to future contests in her speech, which she delivered from a stage in El Paso, Texas. The Lone Star state is the most populous state that has yet to vote, and it will hold both a primary and evening caucuses on March 4.

"We're going to sweep across Texas in the next three weeks," she said. "I'm tested, I'm ready, let's make it happen."

Clinton's campaign lost another top staffer on Tuesday. Her deputy campaign manager stepped down, two days after Clinton's longtime campaign manager, Patty Solis Doyle, resigned.

Obama Overtaking Clinton's Base, Conservatives Support Huckabee

Exit polls conducted for the Associated Press and TV networks indicate that Obama made inroads into Clinton's base in Virginia. In addition to winning the overall vote two-to-one, Obama also won six in 10 women, about two-thirds of men and about half of white voters. All this was in addition to the overwhelming domination of the black vote that has been characteristic of every Obama victory.

Among Republicans in Virginia, four in 10 Republican voters said they considered themselves evangelicals, according to exit polls; roughly 70 percent of them supported Huckabee. Huckabee also did well in Virginia with self-described conservatives, who make up two-thirds of the state's Republicans. McCain led two-to-one among moderates.

While McCain is considered the front-runner for Republicans, and while he has more than three times as many delegates as Huckabee, he has yet to earn the full support of his party's most loyal voters. As exit polls from Virginia attest, Huckabee continues to receive support from the party's more conservative, evangelical voters.

Rough Week for Clinton

For Clinton, the past week has been rough. She lost all of last weekend's voting contests to Obama — in Louisiana, Washington state, Nebraska and Maine; the public learned that she had to loan her campaign $5 million; and she replaced top staffers in her campaign.

Clinton characterized her losses last weekend as expected, saying that Obama has always done better in caucus states such as Washington and Nebraska. She also tried to deflate her supporters' expectations, saying she was focused on the upcoming contests in Ohio and Texas.

Leading up to the Potomac Primaries, Clinton campaigned in both Maryland and Virginia, launching campaign ads and dispatching her husband to a half-dozen campaign events.

Obama's victories in Washington, D.C., and Maryland had been expected; both have large populations of African-Americans, a demographic that has overwhelmingly supported him in voting so far. Washington, D.C., has the largest concentration of blacks in the country, with roughly 55 percent. Maryland has the fifth largest, with 28.9 percent.

Obama has been on a winning streak since Super Tuesday. Undefeated in the series of voting events since that day, he has now won more than 20 states to Clinton's 10. He raised $7.2 million in the day-and-a-half following Super Tuesday. His campaign boasted that it has 650,000 contributors that were responsible for smaller donations (which can be crucial to a campaign when large fundraisers have maxed out their contribution levels).

From NPR staff reports and the Associated Press

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