Candidates Look Ahead to Potomac Primaries

Voters in 24 states and American Samoa headed to the polls on Feb. 5 for the largest-ever "Super Tuesday" election. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) racked up crucial early primary victories from New York to California, while former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee won a series of contests in the South.
By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 6, 2008; 2:44 PM

Republican Sen. John McCain moved closer to facing either of two Democratic senators, Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama, in November's presidential election after yesterday's Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses, but none of the candidates scored a decisive blow, and the campaigns' focus shifted today to a series of upcoming contests.

With both the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations still undecided, candidates today began looking to races this weekend and next week, including the "Potomac primaries" Tuesday in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. For the first time in recent memory, those contests will carry some weight in determining the outcome of the nominating process.

The Clinton campaign, for one, wasted no time switching gears, sending out volunteers to woo commuters this morning at Metro stops in the Maryland suburbs.

"We're in a fierce competition, and we've got many more rounds to fight," Obama told a news conference today.

McCain, a four-term senator from Arizona, told reporters he hopes to unite Republicans behind his candidacy and "wrap this thing up as quickly as possible."

McCain emerged from Super Tuesday with a commanding lead in delegates, according to the latest counts today. He picked up 511 delegates with his victories in nine states -- including delegate-rich New York, Illinois and California -- giving him a total of 613, according to the Associated Press. That haul represents more than half the delegates needed to win the GOP nomination at the party's convention in Minneapolis in September.

But McCain's leading rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, won seven states, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee emerged as a key player by capturing five. Romney came away from Super Tuesday with a total of 269 delegates, and Huckabee had 190, the AP reported. Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) trailed with 14.

Clinton, a second-term Democratic senator from New York, won primaries or caucuses in eight states and the U.S. territory of American Samoa, capturing 584 delegates and bringing her total to 845, the AP said. Obama, who is in his first term as a senator from Illinois, took more states -- 13 -- but came away with fewer delegates, the news agency said, winding up with a total of 765. However, the Obama camp and NBC News produced different tallies that put the Illinois senator narrowly ahead of Clinton in total delegates. The Obama campaign projected him with a lead of 13 delegates, while NBC News estimated this afternoon that he leads Clinton by four delegates, 838 to 834.

Delegate counts have tended to be a moving target because they include both pledged and unpledged delegates and because a number of states have complex systems for allocating them.

One race -- the Democratic caucuses in New Mexico -- remained too close to call this morning, with Obama narrowly leading Clinton but not all precincts having yet reported.

The races drew record turnout in many of the 24 states that had contests yesterday, as voters streamed to the polls despite rough weather that ranged from torrential rains and deadly tornadoes in the South to heavy snow in Colorado. Dozens of people were reported killed in twisters that ravaged two primary states -- Arkansas and Tennessee -- as well as Kentucky and Mississippi, which did not have contests yesterday. The storms spawned more tornadoes today in Southern states.

Ahead of the Potomac primaries, five states have nominating contests this weekend. Democrats will vote in a primary in Louisiana and caucuses in Nebraska and Washington state on Saturday, plus caucuses in Maine on Sunday. Republicans are voting in caucuses Saturday in Kansas, Louisiana and Washington.

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