WASHINGTON (AP) - Sen. Barack Obama swept the Louisiana primary and caucuses in Nebraska and Washington state Saturday night, slicing into Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's slender delegate lead in
their historic race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The Illinois senator also won caucuses in the Virgin Islands,
completing his best night of the campaign.
"Today, voters from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast to the
heart of America stood up to say 'yes we can"' Obama told a
cheering audience of Democrats at a party dinner in Richmond, Va.
He jabbed simultaneously at Clinton and Arizona Sen. John
McCain, saying the election was a choice between debating the
Republican nominee-in-waiting "about who has the most experience
in Washington, or debating him about who's most likely to change
Washington. Because that's a debate we can win."
Clinton preceded Obama to the podium. She did not refer to the
night's voting, instead turning against McCain. "We have tried it
President Bush's way," she said, "and now the Republicans have
chosen more of the same."
She left quickly after her speech, departing before Obama's
arrival. But his supporters made their presence known, sending up
chants of "Obama" from the audience as she made her way offstage.
Obama's winning margins ranged from substantial to crushing.
He won roughly two-thirds of the vote in Washington state and
Nebraska, and almost 90 percent in the Virgin Islands.
Late Louisiana returns showed Obama with 55 percent of the vote,
to 39 percent for the former first lady. As in his earlier Southern
triumphs in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, Obama, a black
man, rode a wave of African-American support to victory in
Louisiana. Clinton won the white vote overwhelmingly.
In all, the Democrats scrapped for 161 delegates in the night's
In initial allocations, Obama won 59, Clinton 29.
In overall totals in The Associated Press count, Clinton had
1,084 delegates to 1,057 for Obama. A total of 2,025 is required to
win the nomination at the national convention in Denver.
The Democratic race moved into a new, post-Super Tuesday phase
as McCain flunked his first ballot test since becoming the
Republican nominee-in-waiting. He lost Kansas caucuses to Mike
Huckabee, gaining less than 24 percent of the vote.
Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, got nearly 60 percent of
the vote a few hours after telling conservatives in Washington, "I
majored in miracles, and I still believe in them." He won all 36
delegates at stake.
McCain led Washington's caucuses, with returns counted from more
than three-quarters of the precincts. In Louisiana, the two men
were in a close race, although the presence of former candidate
Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul on the ballot meant no
candidate would gain the 50 percent required to pocket 20
delegates. Instead, they would be awarded at a state convention
For all his brave talk, Huckabee was hopelessly behind in the
delegate race. McCain had 719, compared with 234 for Huckabee and
14 for Paul. It takes 1,191 to win the nomination at the national
The Democrats' race was as close as the Republicans' was not, a
contest between Obama, hoping to become the first black president,
and Clinton, campaigning to become the first female commander in
The two rivals contest primaries on Tuesday in Maryland,
Virginia and the District of Columbia, all states where Obama and
his campaign are hopeful of winning.
Preliminary results of a survey of voters leaving their polling
places in Louisiana showed that nearly half of those casting
ballots were black. As a group, African-Americans have
overwhelmingly favored Obama in earlier primaries, helping him to
wins in several Southern states.
Obama was gaining about 80 percent of the black votes statewide,
while Clinton was winning 70 percent support among whites, the exit
One in seven Democratic voters and about one in 10 Republicans
said Hurricane Katrina had caused their families severe hardship
from which they have not recovered. There was another indication of
the impact the storm had on the state. Early results suggested that
northern Louisiana accounted for a larger share of the electorate
than in the past, presumably the result of the decline in
population in the hurricane-battered New Orleans area.
McCain cleared his path to the party nomination earlier in the
week with a string of Super Tuesday victories that drove Romney
from the race. He spent the rest of the week trying to reassure
skeptical conservatives, at the same time party leaders quickly
closed ranks behind him.
His Kansas defeat aside, McCain also suffered a symbolic defeat
when Romney edged him out in a straw poll at the Conservative
Political Action Conference meeting across town from the White
The day's contests opened a new phase in the Democratic race
between Clinton and Obama.
The Feb. 5 Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses in 22 states,
which once looked likely to effectively settle the race, instead
produced a near-equal delegate split.
That left Obama and Clinton facing the likelihood of a
grind-it-out competition lasting into spring - if not to the summer
With the night's events, 29 of the 50 states have selected
Two more - Michigan and Florida - held renegade primaries and
the Democratic National Committee has vowed not to seat any
delegates chosen at either of them.
Maine, with 24 delegates, holds caucuses on Sunday. Maryland,
Virginia and the District of Columbia and voting by Americans
overseas are next, on Tuesday, with 175 combined.
Then follows a brief intermission, followed by a string of
election nights, some crowded, some not.
The date of March 4 looms large, 370 delegates in primaries in
Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Mississippi is alone in holding a primary one week later, with a
relatively small 33 delegates at stake.
Puerto Rico anchors the Democratic calendar, with 55 delegates
chosen in caucuses on June 7.
If Super Tuesday failed to settle the campaign, it produced a
remarkable surge in fundraising.
Obama's aides announced he had raised more than $7 million on
line in the two days that followed.
Clinton disclosed she had loaned her campaign $5 million late
last month in an attempt to counter her rival's Super Tuesday
television advertising. She raised more than $6 million in the two
days after the busiest night in primary history.
The television ad wars continued unabated.
Obama has been airing commercials for more than a week in
television markets serving every state that has a contest though
Clinton began airing ads midweek in Washington state, Maine and
Nebraska, and added Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia
The exit poll was conducted by Edison Media Research and
Mitofsky International for The Associated Press and the television
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)